Title: The Novels and Novellas of Joseph Conrad - Part 2
Author: Joseph Conrad
Date: 12 Nov. 2015

  Under Western Eyes


    Part 1

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

    Part 2

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

    Part 3

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

    Part 4

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5



    Part 1 — The Damsel

      Chapter 1 — Young Powell and His Chance

      Chapter 2 — The Fynes and the Girl-friend

      Chapter 3 — Thrift — and the Child

      Chapter 4 — the Governess

      Chapter 5 — the Tea-party

      Chapter 6 — Flora

      Chapter 7 — On the Pavement

    Part 2 — The Knight

      Chapter 1 — The Ferndale

      Chapter 2 — Young Powell Sees and Hears

      Chapter 3 — Devoted Servants — and the Light of a Flare

      Chapter 4 — Anthony and Flora

      Chapter 5 — the Great De Barral

      Chapter 6 — . . . A Moonless Night, Thick With Stars Above, Very Dark on the Water



    Part 1

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

      Chapter 6

      Chapter 7

    Part 2

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

      Chapter 6

      Chapter 7

      Chapter 8

    Part 3

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

      Chapter 6

      Chapter 7

      Chapter 8

      Chapter 9

      Chapter 10

    Part 4

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

      Chapter 6

      Chapter 7

      Chapter 8

      Chapter 9

      Chapter 10

      Chapter 11

      Chapter 12

      Chapter 13

      Chapter 14

  The Shadow-line


    Part 1

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

    Part 2

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

      Chapter 6

  The Arrow of Gold


    First Note

    Part 1

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

    Part 2

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

    Part 3

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

    Part 4

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

    Part 5

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

      Chapter 6

      Chapter 7

      Chapter 8

    Second Note

  The Rescue


    Author’s Note

    Part 1 — The Man and the Brig

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

    Part 2 — The Shore of Refuge

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

      Chapter 6

      Chapter 7

    Part 3 — The Capture

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

      Chapter 6

      Chapter 7

      Chapter 8

      Chapter 9

      Chapter 10

    Part 4 — The Gift of the Shallows

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

    Part 5 — The Point of Honour and the Point of Passion

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

      Chapter 6

    Part 6 — The Claim of Life and the Toll of Death

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

      Chapter 6

      Chapter 7

      Chapter 8

      Chapter 9

  The Nature of a Crime


    Preface by Joseph Conrad

    Preface by Ford Madox Hueffer

    Chapter 1

    Chapter 2

    Chapter 3

    Chapter 4

    Chapter 5

    Chapter 6

    Chapter 7

    Chapter 8

  The Rover


    Chapter 1

    Chapter 2

    Chapter 3

    Chapter 4

    Chapter 5

    Chapter 6

    Chapter 7

    Chapter 8

    Chapter 9

    Chapter 10

    Chapter 11

    Chapter 12

    Chapter 13

    Chapter 14

    Chapter 15

    Chapter 16



    Part 1

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

    Part 2

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

      Chapter 4

      Chapter 5

      Chapter 6

    Part 3

      Chapter 1

      Chapter 2

      Chapter 3

    Part 4

      Chapter 1

Under Western Eyes

This 1911 novel takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia and Geneva, Switzerland and is viewed as Conrad’s reply to the themes explored in Crime and Punishment, as Conrad was reputed to have detested Dostoyevsky. This novel is considered to be one of Conrad’s major works and is close in subject matter to The Secret Agent. It is full of cynicism and conflict about the historical failures of revolutionary movements and ideals.


  • Part 1

  • Part 2

  • Part 3

  • Part 4

Part 1

To begin with I wish to disclaim the possession of those high gifts of imagination and expression which would have enabled my pen to create for the reader the personality of the man who called himself, after the Russian custom, Cyril son of Isidor — Kirylo Sidorovitch — Razumov.

If I have ever had these gifts in any sort of living form they have been smothered out of existence a long time ago under a wilderness of words. Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality. I have been for many years a teacher of languages. It is an occupation which at length becomes fatal to whatever share of imagination, observation, and insight an ordinary person may be heir to. To a teacher of languages there comes a time when the world is but a place of many words and man appears a mere talking animal not much more wonderful than a parrot.

This being so, I could not have observed Mr. Razumov or guessed at his reality by the force of insight, much less have imagined him as he was. Even to invent the mere bald facts of his life would have been utterly beyond my powers. But I think that without this declaration the readers of these pages will be able to detect in the story the marks of documentary evidence. And that is perfectly correct. It is based on a document; all I have brought to it is my knowledge of the Russian language, which is sufficient for what is attempted here. The document, of course, is something in the nature of a journal, a diary, yet not exactly that in its actual form. For instance, most of it was not written up from day to day, though all the entries are dated. Some of these entries cover months of time and extend over dozens of pages. All the earlier part is a retrospect, in a narrative form, relating to an event which took place about a year before.

I must mention that I have lived for a long time in Geneva. A whole quarter of that town, on account of many Russians residing there, is called La Petite Russie — Little Russia. I had a rather extensive connexion in Little Russia at that time. Yet I confess that I have no comprehension of the Russian character. The illogicality of their attitude, the arbitrariness of their conclusions, the frequency of the exceptional, should present no difficulty to a student of many grammars; but there must be something else in the way, some special human trait — one of those subtle differences that are beyond the ken of mere professors. What must remain striking to a teacher of languages is the Russians’ extraordinary love of words. They gather them up; they cherish them, but they don’t hoard them in their breasts; on the contrary, they are always ready to pour them out by the hour or by the night with an enthusiasm, a sweeping abundance, with such an aptness of application sometimes that, as in the case of very accomplished parrots, one can’t defend oneself from the suspicion that they really understand what they say. There is a generosity in their ardour of speech which removes it as far as possible from common loquacity; and it is ever too disconnected to be classed as eloquence.... But I must apologize for this digression.

It would be idle to inquire why Mr. Razumov has left this record behind him. It is inconceivable that he should have wished any human eye to see it. A mysterious impulse of human nature comes into play here. Putting aside Samuel Pepys, who has forced in this way the door of immortality, innumerable people, criminals, saints, philosophers, young girls, statesmen, and simple imbeciles, have kept self-revealing records from vanity no doubt, but also from other more inscrutable motives. There must be a wonderful soothing power in mere words since so many men have used them for self-communion. Being myself a quiet individual I take it that what all men are really after is some form or perhaps only some formula of peace. Certainly they are crying loud enough for it at the present day. What sort of peace Kirylo Sidorovitch Razumov expected to find in the writing up of his record it passeth my understanding to guess.

The fact remains that he has written it.

Mr. Razumov was a tall, well-proportioned young man, quite unusually dark for a Russian from the Central Provinces. His good looks would have been unquestionable if it had not been for a peculiar lack of fineness in the features. It was as if a face modelled vigorously in wax (with some approach even to a classical correctness of type) had been held close to a fire till all sharpness of line had been lost in the softening of the material. But even thus he was sufficiently good-looking. His manner, too, was good. In discussion he was easily swayed by argument and authority. With his younger compatriots he took the attitude of an inscrutable listener, a listener of the kind that hears you out intelligently and then — just changes the subject.

This sort of trick, which may arise either from intellectual insufficiency or from an imperfect trust in one’s own convictions, procured for Mr. Razumov a reputation of profundity. Amongst a lot of exuberant talkers, in the habit of exhausting themselves daily by ardent discussion, a comparatively taciturn personality is naturally credited with reserve power. By his comrades at the St. Petersburg University, Kirylo Sidorovitch Razumov, third year’s student in philosophy, was looked upon as a strong nature — an altogether trustworthy man. This, in a country where an opinion may be a legal crime visited by death or sometimes by a fate worse than mere death, meant that he was worthy of being trusted with forbidden opinions. He was liked also for his amiability and for his quiet readiness to oblige his comrades even at the cost of personal inconvenience.

Mr. Razumov was supposed to be the son of an Archpriest and to be protected by a distinguished nobleman — perhaps of his own distant province. But his outward appearance accorded badly with such humble origin. Such a descent was not credible. It was, indeed, suggested that Mr. Razumov was the son of an Archpriest’s pretty daughter — which, of course, would put a different complexion on the matter. This theory also rendered intelligible the protection of the distinguished nobleman. All this, however, had never been investigated maliciously or otherwise. No one knew or cared who the nobleman in question was. Razumov received a modest but very sufficient allowance from the hands of an obscure attorney, who seemed to act as his guardian in some measure. Now and then he appeared at some professor’s informal reception. Apart from that Razumov was not known to have any social relations in the town. He attended the obligatory lectures regularly and was considered by the authorities as a very promising student. He worked at home in the manner of a man who means to get on, but did not shut himself up severely for that purpose. He was always accessible, and there was nothing secret or reserved in his life.

Chapter 1

The origin of Mr. Razumov’s record is connected with an event characteristic of modern Russia in the actual fact: the assassination of a prominent statesman — and still more characteristic of the moral corruption of an oppressed society where the noblest aspirations of humanity, the desire of freedom, an ardent patriotism, the love of justice, the sense of pity, and even the fidelity of simple minds are prostituted to the lusts of hate and fear, the inseparable companions of an uneasy despotism.

The fact alluded to above is the successful attempt on the life of Mr. de P — -, the President of the notorious Repressive Commission of some years ago, the Minister of State invested with extraordinary powers. The newspapers made noise enough about that fanatical, narrow-chested figure in gold-laced uniform, with a face of crumpled parchment, insipid, bespectacled eyes, and the cross of the Order of St. Procopius hung under the skinny throat. For a time, it may be remembered, not a month passed without his portrait appearing in some one of the illustrated papers of Europe. He served the monarchy by imprisoning, exiling, or sending to the gallows men and women, young and old, with an equable, unwearied industry. In his mystic acceptance of the principle of autocracy he was bent on extirpating from the land every vestige of anything that resembled freedom in public institutions; and in his ruthless persecution of the rising generation he seemed to aim at the destruction of the very hope of liberty itself.

It is said that this execrated personality had not enough imagination to be aware of the hate he inspired. It is hardly credible; but it is a fact that he took very few precautions for his safety. In the preamble of a certain famous State paper he had declared once that “the thought of liberty has never existed in the Act of the Creator. From the multitude of men’s counsel nothing could come but revolt and disorder; and revolt and disorder in a world created for obedience and stability is sin. It was not Reason but Authority which expressed the Divine Intention. God was the Autocrat of the Universe....” It may be that the man who made this declaration believed that heaven itself was bound to protect him in his remorseless defence of Autocracy on this earth.

No doubt the vigilance of the police saved him many times; but, as a matter of fact, when his appointed fate overtook him, the competent authorities could not have given him any warning. They had no knowledge of any conspiracy against the Minister’s life, had no hint of any plot through their usual channels of information, had seen no signs, were aware of no suspicious movements or dangerous persons.

Mr. de P — - was being driven towards the railway station in a two-horse uncovered sleigh with footman and coachman on the box. Snow had been falling all night, making the roadway, uncleared as yet at this early hour, very heavy for the horses. It was still falling thickly. But the sleigh must have been observed and marked down. As it drew over to the left before taking a turn, the footman noticed a peasant walking slowly on the edge of the pavement with his hands in the pockets of his sheepskin coat and his shoulders hunched up to his ears under the falling snow. On being overtaken this peasant suddenly faced about and swung his arm. In an instant there was a terrible shock, a detonation muffled in the multitude of snowflakes; both horses lay dead and mangled on the ground and the coachman, with a shrill cry, had fallen off the box mortally wounded. The footman (who survived) had no time to see the face of the man in the sheepskin coat. After throwing the bomb this last got away, but it is supposed that, seeing a lot of people surging up on all sides of him in the falling snow, and all running towards the scene of the explosion, he thought it safer to turn back with them.

In an incredibly short time an excited crowd assembled round the sledge. The Minister-President, getting out unhurt into the deep snow, stood near the groaning coachman and addressed the people repeatedly in his weak, colourless voice: “I beg of you to keep off: For the love of God, I beg of you good people to keep off.”

It was then that a tall young man who had remained standing perfectly still within a carriage gateway, two houses lower down, stepped out into the street and walking up rapidly flung another bomb over the heads of the crowd. It actually struck the Minister-President on the shoulder as he stooped over his dying servant, then falling between his feet exploded with a terrific concentrated violence, striking him dead to the ground, finishing the wounded man and practically annihilating the empty sledge in the twinkling of an eye. With a yell of horror the crowd broke up and fled in all directions, except for those who fell dead or dying where they stood nearest to the Minister-President, and one or two others who did not fall till they had run a little way.

The first explosion had brought together a crowd as if by enchantment, the second made as swiftly a solitude in the street for hundreds of yards in each direction. Through the falling snow people looked from afar at the small heap of dead bodies lying upon each other near the carcases of the two horses. Nobody dared to approach till some Cossacks of a street-patrol galloped up and, dismounting, began to turn over the dead. Amongst the innocent victims of the second explosion laid out on the pavement there was a body dressed in a peasant’s sheepskin coat; but the face was unrecognisable, there was absolutely nothing found in the pockets of its poor clothing, and it was the only one whose identity was never established.

That day Mr. Razumov got up at his usual hour and spent the morning within the University buildings listening to the lectures and working for some time in the library. He heard the first vague rumour of something in the way of bomb-throwing at the table of the students’ ordinary, where he was accustomed to eat his two o’clock dinner. But this rumour was made up of mere whispers, and this was Russia, where it was not always safe, for a student especially, to appear too much interested in certain kinds of whispers. Razumov was one of those men who, living in a period of mental and political unrest, keep an instinctive hold on normal, practical, everyday life. He was aware of the emotional tension of his time; he even responded to it in an indefinite way. But his main concern was with his work, his studies, and with his own future.

Officially and in fact without a family (for the daughter of the Archpriest had long been dead), no home influences had shaped his opinions or his feelings. He was as lonely in the world as a man swimming in the deep sea. The word Razumov was the mere label of a solitary individuality. There were no Razumovs belonging to him anywhere. His closest parentage was defined in the statement that he was a Russian. Whatever good he expected from life would be given to or withheld from his hopes by that connexion alone. This immense parentage suffered from the throes of internal dissensions, and he shrank mentally from the fray as a good-natured man may shrink from taking definite sides in a violent family quarrel.

Razumov, going home, reflected that having prepared all the matters of the forthcoming examination, he could now devote his time to the subject of the prize essay. He hankered after the silver medal. The prize was offered by the Ministry of Education; the names of the competitors would be submitted to the Minister himself. The mere fact of trying would be considered meritorious in the higher quarters; and the possessor of the prize would have a claim to an administrative appointment of the better sort after he had taken his degree. The student Razumov in an access of elation forgot the dangers menacing the stability of the institutions which give rewards and appointments. But remembering the medallist of the year before, Razumov, the young man of no parentage, was sobered. He and some others happened to be assembled in their comrade’s rooms at the very time when that last received the official advice of his success. He was a quiet, unassuming young man: “Forgive me,” he had said with a faint apologetic smile and taking up his cap, “I am going out to order up some wine. But I must first send a telegram to my folk at home. I say! Won’t the old people make it a festive time for the neighbours for twenty miles around our place.”

Razumov thought there was nothing of that sort for him in the world. His success would matter to no one. But he felt no bitterness against the nobleman his protector, who was not a provincial magnate as was generally supposed. He was in fact nobody less than Prince K — -, once a great and splendid figure in the world and now, his day being over, a Senator and a gouty invalid, living in a still splendid but more domestic manner. He had some young children and a wife as aristocratic and proud as himself.

In all his life Razumov was allowed only once to come into personal contact with the Prince.

It had the air of a chance meeting in the little attorney’s office. One day Razumov, coming in by appointment, found a stranger standing there — a tall, aristocratic-looking Personage with silky, grey sidewhiskers. The bald-headed, sly little lawyer-fellow called out, “Come in — come in, Mr. Razumov,” with a sort of ironic heartiness. Then turning deferentially to the stranger with the grand air, “A ward of mine, your Excellency. One of the most promising students of his faculty in the St. Petersburg University.”

To his intense surprise Razumov saw a white shapely hand extended to him. He took it in great confusion (it was soft and passive) and heard at the same time a condescending murmur in which he caught only the words “Satisfactory” and “Persevere.” But the most amazing thing of all was to feel suddenly a distinct pressure of the white shapely hand just before it was withdrawn: a light pressure like a secret sign. The emotion of it was terrible. Razumov’s heart seemed to leap into his throat. When he raised his eyes the aristocratic personage, motioning the little lawyer aside, had opened the door and was going out.

The attorney rummaged amongst the papers on his desk for a time. “Do you know who that was?” he asked suddenly.

Razumov, whose heart was thumping hard yet, shook his head in silence.

“That was Prince K — -. You wonder what he could be doing in the hole of a poor legal rat like myself — eh? These awfully great people have their sentimental curiosities like common sinners. But if I were you, Kirylo Sidorovitch,” he continued, leering and laying a peculiar emphasis on the patronymic, “I wouldn’t boast at large of the introduction. It would not be prudent, Kirylo Sidorovitch. Oh dear no! It would be in fact dangerous for your future.”

The young man’s ears burned like fire; his sight was dim. “That man!” Razumov was saying to himself. “He!”

Henceforth it was by this monosyllable that Mr. Razumov got into the habit of referring mentally to the stranger with grey silky side-whiskers. From that time too, when walking in the more fashionable quarters, he noted with interest the magnificent horses and carriages with Prince K — -’s liveries on the box. Once he saw the Princess get out — she was shopping — followed by two girls, of which one was nearly a head taller than the other. Their fair hair hung loose down their backs in the English style; they had merry eyes, their coats, muffs, and little fur caps were exactly alike, and their cheeks and noses were tinged a cheerful pink by the frost. They crossed the pavement in front of him, and Razumov went on his way smiling shyly to himself. “His” daughters. They resembled “Him.” The young man felt a glow of warm friendliness towards these girls who would never know of his existence. Presently they would marry Generals or Kammerherrs and have girls and boys of their own, who perhaps would be aware of him as a celebrated old professor, decorated, possibly a Privy Councillor, one of the glories of Russia — nothing more!

But a celebrated professor was a somebody. Distinction would convert the label Razumov into an honoured name. There was nothing strange in the student Razumov’s wish for distinction. A man’s real life is that accorded to him in the thoughts of other men by reason of respect or natural love. Returning home on the day of the attempt on Mr. de P — -’s life Razumov resolved to have a good try for the silver medal.

Climbing slowly the four flights of the dark, dirty staircase in the house where he had his lodgings, he felt confident of success. The winner’s name would be published in the papers on New Year’s Day. And at the thought that “He” would most probably read it there, Razumov stopped short on the stairs for an instant, then went on smiling faintly at his own emotion. “This is but a shadow,” he said to himself, “but the medal is a solid beginning.”

With those ideas of industry in his head the warmth of his room was agreeable and encouraging. “I shall put in four hours of good work,” he thought. But no sooner had he closed the door than he was horribly startled. All black against the usual tall stove of white tiles gleaming in the dusk, stood a strange figure, wearing a skirted, close-fitting, brown cloth coat strapped round the waist, in long boots, and with a little Astrakhan cap on its head. It loomed lithe and martial. Razumov was utterly confounded. It was only when the figure advancing two paces asked in an untroubled, grave voice if the outer door was closed that he regained his power of speech.

“Haldin!... Victor Victorovitch!... Is that you?... Yes. The outer door is shut all right. But this is indeed unexpected.”

Victor Haldin, a student older than most of his contemporaries at the University, was not one of the industrious set. He was hardly ever seen at lectures; the authorities had marked him as “restless” and “unsound “ — very bad notes. But he had a great personal prestige with his comrades and influenced their thoughts. Razumov had never been intimate with him. They had met from time to time at gatherings in other students’ houses. They had even had a discussion together — one of those discussions on first principles dear to the sanguine minds of youth.

Razumov wished the man had chosen some other time to come for a chat. He felt in good trim to tackle the prize essay. But as Haldin could not be slightingly dismissed Razumov adopted the tone of hospitality, asking him to sit down and smoke.

“Kirylo Sidorovitch,” said the other, flinging off his cap, “we are not perhaps in exactly the same camp. Your judgment is more philosophical. You are a man of few words, but I haven’t met anybody who dared to doubt the generosity of your sentiments. There is a solidity about your character which cannot exist without courage.”

Razumov felt flattered and began to murmur shyly something about being very glad of his good opinion, when Haldin raised his hand.

“That is what I was saying to myself,” he continued, “as I dodged in the woodyard down by the river-side. ‘He has a strong character this young man,’ I said to myself. ‘He does not throw his soul to the winds.’ Your reserve has always fascinated me, Kirylo Sidorovitch. So I tried to remember your address. But look here — it was a piece of luck. Your dvornik was away from the gate talking to a sleigh-driver on the other side of the street. I met no one on the stairs, not a soul. As I came up to your floor I caught sight of your landlady coming out of your rooms. But she did not see me. She crossed the landing to her own side, and then I slipped in. I have been here two hours expecting you to come in every moment.”

Razumov had listened in astonishment; but before he could open his mouth Haldin added, speaking deliberately, “It was I who removed de P — - this morning.” Razumov kept down a cry of dismay. The sentiment of his life being utterly ruined by this contact with such a crime expressed itself quaintly by a sort of half-derisive mental exclamation, “There goes my silver medal!”

Haldin continued after waiting a while —

“You say nothing, Kirylo Sidorovitch! I understand your silence. To be sure, I cannot expect you with your frigid English manner to embrace me. But never mind your manners. You have enough heart to have heard the sound of weeping and gnashing of teeth this man raised in the land. That would be enough to get over any philosophical hopes. He was uprooting the tender plant. He had to be stopped. He was a dangerous man — a convinced man. Three more years of his work would have put us back fifty years into bondage — and look at all the lives wasted, at all the souls lost in that time.”

His curt, self-confident voice suddenly lost its ring and it was in a dull tone that he added, “Yes, brother, I have killed him. It’s weary work.”

Razumov had sunk into a chair. Every moment he expected a crowd of policemen to rush in. There must have been thousands of them out looking for that man walking up and down in his room. Haldin was talking again in a restrained, steady voice. Now and then he flourished an arm, slowly, without excitement.

He told Razumov how he had brooded for a year; how he had not slept properly for weeks. He and “Another” had a warning of the Minister’s movements from “a certain person” late the evening before. He and that “Another” prepared their “engines” and resolved to have no sleep till “the deed” was done. They walked the streets under the falling snow with the “engines” on them, exchanging not a word the livelong night. When they happened to meet a police patrol they took each other by the arm and pretended to be a couple of peasants on the spree. They reeled and talked in drunken hoarse voices. Except for these strange outbreaks they kept silence, moving on ceaselessly. Their plans had been previously arranged. At daybreak they made their way to the spot which they knew the sledge must pass. When it appeared in sight they exchanged a muttered good-bye and separated. The “other” remained at the corner, Haldin took up a position a little farther up the street....

After throwing his “engine” he ran off and in a moment was overtaken by the panic-struck people flying away from the spot after the second explosion. They were wild with terror. He was jostled once or twice. He slowed down for the rush to pass him and then turned to the left into a narrow street. There he was alone.

He marvelled at this immediate escape. The work was done. He could hardly believe it. He fought with an almost irresistible longing to lie down on the pavement and sleep. But this sort of faintness — a drowsy faintness — passed off quickly. He walked faster, making his way to one of the poorer parts of the town in order to look up Ziemianitch.

This Ziemianitch, Razumov understood, was a sort of town-peasant who had got on; owner of a small number of sledges and horses for hire. Haldin paused in his narrative to exclaim —

“A bright spirit! A hardy soul! The best driver in St. Petersburg. He has a team of three horses there.... Ah! He’s a fellow!”

This man had declared himself willing to take out safely, at any time, one or two persons to the second or third railway station on one of the southern lines. But there had been no time to warn him the night before. His usual haunt seemed to be a low-class eating-house on the outskirts of the town. When Haldin got there the man was not to be found. He was not expected to turn up again till the evening. Haldin wandered away restlessly.

He saw the gate of a woodyard open and went in to get out of the wind which swept the bleak broad thoroughfare. The great rectangular piles of cut wood loaded with snow resembled the huts of a village. At first the watchman who discovered him crouching amongst them talked in a friendly manner. He was a dried-up old man wearing two ragged army coats one over the other; his wizened little face, tied up under the jaw and over the ears in a dirty red handkerchief, looked comical. Presently he grew sulky, and then all at once without rhyme or reason began to shout furiously.

“Aren’t you ever going to clear out of this, you loafer? We know all about factory hands of your sort. A big, strong, young chap! You aren’t even drunk. What do you want here? You don’t frighten us. Take yourself and your ugly eyes away.”

Haldin stopped before the sitting Razumov. His supple figure, with the white forehead above which the fair hair stood straight up, had an aspect of lofty daring.

“He did not like my eyes,” he said. “And so...here I am.”

Razumov made an effort to speak calmly.

“But pardon me, Victor Victorovitch. We know each other so little.... I don’t see why you....”

“Confidence,” said Haldin.

This word sealed Razumov’s lips as if a hand had been clapped on his mouth. His brain seethed with arguments.

“And so — here you are,” he muttered through his teeth.

The other did not detect the tone of anger. Never suspected it.

“Yes. And nobody knows I am here. You are the last person that could be suspected — should I get caught. That’s an advantage, you see. And then — speaking to a superior mind like yours I can well say all the truth. It occurred to me that you — you have no one belonging to you — no ties, no one to suffer for it if this came out by some means. There have been enough ruined Russian homes as it is. But I don’t see how my passage through your rooms can be ever known. If I should be got hold of, I’ll know how to keep silent — no matter what they may be pleased to do to me,” he added grimly.

He began to walk again while Razumov sat still appalled.

“You thought that — ” he faltered out almost sick with indignation.

“Yes, Razumov. Yes, brother. Some day you shall help to build. You suppose that I am a terrorist, now — a destructor of what is, But consider that the true destroyers are they who destroy the spirit of progress and truth, not the avengers who merely kill the bodies of the persecutors of human dignity. Men like me are necessary to make room for self-contained, thinking men like you. Well, we have made the sacrifice of our lives, but all the same I want to escape if it can be done. It is not my life I want to save, but my power to do. I won’t live idle. Oh no! Don’t make any mistake, Razumov. Men like me are rare. And, besides, an example like this is more awful to oppressors when the perpetrator vanishes without a trace. They sit in their offices and palaces and quake. All I want you to do is to help me to vanish. No great matter that. Only to go by and by and see Ziemianitch for me at that place where I went this morning. Just tell him, ‘He whom you know wants a well-horsed sledge to pull up half an hour after midnight at the seventh lamp-post on the left counting from the upper end of Karabelnaya. If nobody gets in, the sledge is to run round a block or two, so as to come back past the same spot in ten minutes’ time.’“

Razumov wondered why he had not cut short that talk and told this man to go away long before. Was it weakness or what?

He concluded that it was a sound instinct. Haldin must have been seen. It was impossible that some people should not have noticed the face and appearance of the man who threw the second bomb. Haldin was a noticeable person. The police in their thousands must have had his description within the hour. With every moment the danger grew. Sent out to wander in the streets he could not escape being caught in the end.

The police would very soon find out all about him. They would set about discovering a conspiracy. Everybody Haldin had ever known would be in the greatest danger. Unguarded expressions, little facts in themselves innocent would be counted for crimes. Razumov remembered certain words he said, the speeches he had listened to, the harmless gatherings he had attended — it was almost impossible for a student to keep out of that sort of thing, without becoming suspect to his comrades.

Razumov saw himself shut up in a fortress, worried, badgered, perhaps ill-used. He saw himself deported by an administrative order, his life broken, ruined, and robbed of all hope. He saw himself — at best — leading a miserable existence under police supervision, in some small, faraway provincial town, without friends to assist his necessities or even take any steps to alleviate his lot — as others had. Others had fathers, mothers, brothers, relations, connexions, to move heaven and earth on their behalf — he had no one. The very officials that sentenced him some morning would forget his existence before sunset.

He saw his youth pass away from him in misery and half starvation — his strength give way, his mind become an abject thing. He saw himself creeping, broken down and shabby, about the streets — dying unattended in some filthy hole of a room, or on the sordid bed of a Government hospital.

He shuddered. Then the peace of bitter calmness came over him. It was best to keep this man out of the streets till he could be got rid of with some chance of escaping. That was the best that could be done. Razumov, of course, felt the safety of his lonely existence to be permanently endangered. This evening’s doings could turn up against him at any time as long as this man lived and the present institutions endured. They appeared to him rational and indestructible at that moment. They had a force of harmony — in contrast with the horrible discord of this man’s presence. He hated the man. He said quietly —

“Yes, of course, I will go. ‘You must give me precise directions, and for the rest — depend on me.”

“Ah! You are a fellow! Collected — cool as a cucumber. A regular Englishman. Where did you get your soul from? There aren’t many like you. Look here, brother! Men like me leave no posterity, but their souls are not lost. No man’s soul is ever lost. It works for itself — or else where would be the sense of self-sacrifice, of martyrdom, of conviction, of faith — the labours of the soul? What will become of my soul when I die in the way I must die — soon — very soon perhaps? It shall not perish. Don’t make a mistake, Razumov. This is not murder — it is war, war. My spirit shall go on warring in some Russian body till all falsehood is swept out of the world. The modern civilization is false, but a new revelation shall come out of Russia. Ha! you say nothing. You are a sceptic. I respect your philosophical scepticism, Razumov, but don’t touch the soul. The Russian soul that lives in all of us. It has a future. It has a mission, I tell you, or else why should I have been moved to do this — reckless — like a butcher — in the middle of all these innocent people — scattering death — I! I!... I wouldn’t hurt a fly!”

“Not so loud,” warned Razumov harshly.

Haldin sat down abruptly, and leaning his head on his folded arms burst into tears. He wept for a long time. The dusk had deepened in the room. Razumov, motionless in sombre wonder, listened to the sobs.

The other raised his head, got up and with an effort mastered his voice.

“Yes. Men like me leave no posterity,” he repeated in a subdued tone, “I have a sister though. She’s with my old mother — I persuaded them to go abroad this year — thank God. Not a bad little girl my sister. She has the most trustful eyes of any human being that ever walked this earth. She will marry well, I hope. She may have children — sons perhaps. Look at me. My father was a Government official in the provinces, He had a little land too. A simple servant of God — a true Russian in his way. His was the soul of obedience. But I am not like him. They say I resemble my mother’s eldest brother, an officer. They shot him in ‘28. Under Nicholas, you know. Haven’t I told you that this is war, war.... But God of Justice! This is weary work.”

Razumov, in his chair, leaning his head on his hand, spoke as if from the bottom of an abyss.

“You believe in God, Haldin?”

“There you go catching at words that are wrung from one. What does it matter? What was it the Englishman said: ‘There is a divine soul in things...’ Devil take him — I don’t remember now. But he spoke the truth. When the day of you thinkers comes don’t you forget what’s divine in the Russian soul — and that’s resignation. Respect that in your intellectual restlessness and don’t let your arrogant wisdom spoil its message to the world. I am speaking to you now like a man with a rope round his neck. What do you imagine I am? A being in revolt? No. It’s you thinkers who are in everlasting revolt. I am one of the resigned. When the necessity of this heavy work came to me and I understood that it had to be done — what did I do? Did I exult? Did I take pride in my purpose? Did I try to weigh its worth and consequences? No! I was resigned. I thought ‘God’s will be done.’“

He threw himself full length on Razumov’s bed and putting the backs of his hands over his eyes remained perfectly motionless and silent. Not even the sound of his breathing could be heard. The dead stillness or the room remained undisturbed till in the darkness Razumov said gloomily —


“Yes,” answered the other readily, quite invisible now on the bed and without the slightest stir.

“Isn’t it time for me to start?”

“Yes, brother.” The other was heard, lying still in the darkness as though he were talking in his sleep. “The time has come to put fate to the test.”

He paused, then gave a few lucid directions in the quiet impersonal voice of a man in a trance. Razumov made ready without a word of answer. As he was leaving the room the voice on the bed said after him —

“Go with God, thou silent soul.”

On the landing, moving softly, Razumov locked the door and put the key in his pocket.

Chapter 2

The words and events of that evening must have been graven as if with a steel tool on Mr. Razumov’s brain since he was able to write his relation with such fullness and precision a good many months afterwards.

The record of the thoughts which assailed him in the street is even more minute and abundant. They seem to have rushed upon him with the greater freedom because his thinking powers were no longer crushed by Haldin’s presence — the appalling presence of a great crime and the stunning force of a great fanaticism. On looking through the pages of Mr. Razumov’s diary I own that a “rush of thoughts” is not an adequate image.

The more adequate description would be a tumult of thoughts — the faithful reflection of the state of his feelings. The thoughts in themselves were not numerous — they were like the thoughts of most human beings, few and simple — but they cannot be reproduced here in all their exclamatory repetitions which went on in an endless and weary turmoil — for the walk was long.

If to the Western reader they appear shocking, inappropriate, or even improper, it must be remembered that as to the first this may be the effect of my crude statement. For the rest I will only remark here that this is not a story of the West of Europe.

Nations it may be have fashioned their Governments, but the Governments have paid them back in the same coin. It is unthinkable that any young Englishman should find himself in Razumov’s situation. This being so it would be a vain enterprise to imagine what he would think. The only safe surmise to make is that he would not think as Mr. Razumov thought at this crisis of his fate. He would not have an hereditary and personal knowledge or the means by which historical autocracy represses ideas, guards its power, and defends its existence. By an act of mental extravagance he might imagine himself arbitrarily thrown into prison, but it would never occur to him unless he were delirious (and perhaps not even then) that he could be beaten with whips as a practical measure either of investigation or of punishment.

This is but a crude and obvious example of the different conditions of Western thought. I don’t know that this danger occurred, specially, to Mr. Razumov. No doubt it entered unconsciously into the general dread and the general appallingness of this crisis. Razumov, as has been seen, was aware of more subtle ways in which an individual may be undone by the proceedings of a despotic Government. A simple expulsion from the University (the very least that could happen to him), with an impossibility to continue his studies anywhere, was enough to ruin utterly a young man depending entirely upon the development of his natural abilities for his place in the world. He was a Russian: and for him to be implicated meant simply sinking into the lowest social depths amongst the hopeless and the destitute — the night birds of the city.

The peculiar circumstances of Razumov’s parentage, or rather of his lack of parentage, should be taken into the account of his thoughts. And he remembered them too. He had been lately reminded of them in a peculiarly atrocious way by this fatal Haldin. “Because I haven’t that, must everything else be taken away from me?” he thought.

He nerved himself for another effort to go on. Along the roadway sledges glided phantom-like and jingling through a fluttering whiteness on the black face of the night. “For it is a crime,” he was saying to himself. “A murder is a murder. Though, of course, some sort of liberal institutions....”

A feeling of horrible sickness came over him. “I must be courageous,” he exhorted himself mentally. All his strength was suddenly gone as if taken out by a hand. Then by a mighty effort of will it came back because he was afraid of fainting in the street and being picked up by the police with the key of his lodgings in his pocket. They would find Haldin there, and then, indeed, he would be undone.

Strangely enough it was this fear which seems to have kept him up to the end. The passers-by were rare. They came upon him suddenly, looming up black in the snowflakes close by, then vanishing all at once-without footfalls.

It was the quarter of the very poor. Razumov noticed an elderly woman tied up in ragged shawls. Under the street lamp she seemed a beggar off duty. She walked leisurely in the blizzard as though she had no home to hurry to, she hugged under one arm a round loaf of black bread with an air of guarding a priceless booty: and Razumov averting his glance envied her the peace of her mind and the serenity of her fate.

To one reading Mr. Razumov’s narrative it is really a wonder how he managed to keep going as he did along one interminable street after another on pavements that were gradually becoming blocked with snow. It was the thought of Haldin locked up in his rooms and the desperate desire to get rid of his presence which drove him forward. No rational determination had any part in his exertions. Thus, when on arriving at the low eating-house he heard that the man of horses, Ziemianitch, was not there, he could only stare stupidly.

The waiter, a wild-haired youth in tarred boots and a pink shirt, exclaimed, uncovering his pale gums in a silly grin, that Ziemianitch had got his skinful early in the afternoon and had gone away with a bottle under each arm to keep it up amongst the horses — he supposed.

The owner of the vile den, a bony short man in a dirty cloth caftan coming down to his heels, stood by, his hands tucked into his belt, and nodded confirmation.

The reek of spirits, the greasy rancid steam of food got Razumov by the throat. He struck a table with his clenched hand and shouted violently —

“You lie.”

Bleary unwashed faces were turned to his direction. A mild-eyed ragged tramp drinking tea at the next table moved farther away. A murmur of wonder arose with an undertone of uneasiness. A laugh was heard too, and an exclamation, “There! there!” jeeringly soothing. The waiter looked all round and announced to the room —

“The gentleman won’t believe that Ziemianitch is drunk.”

From a distant corner a hoarse voice belonging to a horrible, nondescript, shaggy being with a black face like the muzzle of a bear grunted angrily —

“The cursed driver of thieves. What do we want with his gentlemen here? We are all honest folk in this place.”

Razumov, biting his lip till blood came to keep himself from bursting into imprecations, followed the owner of the den, who, whispering “Come along, little father,” led him into a tiny hole of a place behind the wooden counter, whence proceeded a sound of splashing. A wet and bedraggled creature, a sort of sexless and shivering scarecrow, washed glasses in there, bending over a wooden tub by the light of a tallow dip.

“Yes, little father,” the man in the long caftan said plaintively. He had a brown, cunning little face, a thin greyish beard. Trying to light a tin lantern he hugged it to his breast and talked garrulously the while.

He would show Ziemianitch to the gentleman to prove there were no lies told. And he would show him drunk. His woman, it seems, ran away from him last night. “Such a hag she was! Thin! Pfui!” He spat. They were always running away from that driver of the devil — and he sixty years old too; could never get used to it. But each heart knows sorrow after its own kind and Ziemianitch was a born fool all his days. And then he would fly to the bottle. “‘Who could bear life in our land without the bottle?’ he says. A proper Russian man — the little pig.... Be pleased to follow me.”

Razumov crossed a quadrangle of deep snow enclosed between high walls with innumerable windows. Here and there a dim yellow light hung within the four-square mass of darkness. The house was an enormous slum, a hive of human vermin, a monumental abode of misery towering on the verge of starvation and despair.

In a corner the ground sloped sharply down, and Razumov followed the light of the lantern through a small doorway into a long cavernous place like a neglected subterranean byre. Deep within, three shaggy little horses tied up to rings hung their heads together, motionless and shadowy in the dim light of the lantern. It must have been the famous team of Haldin’s escape. Razumov peered fearfully into the gloom. His guide pawed in the straw with his foot.

“Here he is. Ah! the little pigeon. A true Russian man. ‘No heavy hearts for me,’ he says. ‘Bring out the bottle and take your ugly mug out of my sight.’ Ha! ha! ha! That’s the fellow he is.”

He held the lantern over a prone form of a man, apparently fully dressed for outdoors. His head was lost in a pointed cloth hood. On the other side of a heap of straw protruded a pair of feet in monstrous thick boots.

“Always ready to drive,” commented the keeper of the eating-house. “A proper Russian driver that. Saint or devil, night or day is all one to Ziemianitch when his heart is free from sorrow. ‘I don’t ask who you are, but where you want to go,’ he says. He would drive Satan himself to his own abode and come back chirruping to his horses. Many a one he has driven who is clanking his chains in the Nertchinsk mines by this time.”

Razumov shuddered.

“Call him, wake him up,” he faltered out.

The other set down his light, stepped back and launched a kick at the prostrate sleeper. The man shook at the impact but did not move. At the third kick he grunted but remained inert as before.

The eating-house keeper desisted and fetched a deep sigh.

“You see for yourself how it is. We have done what we can for you.”

He picked up the lantern. The intense black spokes of shadow swung about in the circle of light. A terrible fury — the blind rage of self-preservation — possessed Razumov.

“Ah! The vile beast,” he bellowed out in an unearthly tone which made the lantern jump and tremble! “I shall wake you! Give me...give me...”

He looked round wildly, seized the handle of a stablefork and rushing forward struck at the prostrate body with inarticulate cries. After a time his cries ceased, and the rain of blows fell in the stillness and shadows of the cellar-like stable. Razumov belaboured Ziemianitch with an insatiable fury, in great volleys of sounding thwacks. Except for the violent movements of Razumov nothing stirred, neither the beaten man nor the spoke-like shadows on the walls. And only the sound of blows was heard. It was a weird scene.

Suddenly there was a sharp crack. The stick broke and half of it flew far away into the gloom beyond the light. At the same time Ziemianitch sat up. At this Razumov became as motionless as the man with the lantern — only his breast heaved for air as if ready to burst.

Some dull sensation of pain must have penetrated at last the consoling night of drunkenness enwrapping the “bright Russian soul” of Haldin’s enthusiastic praise. But Ziemianitch evidently saw nothing. His eyeballs blinked all white in the light once, twice — then the gleam went out. For a moment he sat in the straw with closed eyes with a strange air of weary meditation, then fell over slowly on his side without making the slightest sound. Only the straw rustled a little. Razumov stared wildly, fighting for his breath. After a second or two he heard a light snore.

He flung from him the piece of stick remaining in his grasp, and went off with great hasty strides without looking back once.

After going heedlessly for some fifty yards along the street he walked into a snowdrift and was up to his knees before he stopped.

This recalled him to himself; and glancing about he discovered he had been going in the wrong direction. He retraced his steps, but now at a more moderate pace. When passing before the house he had just left he flourished his fist at the sombre refuge of misery and crime rearing its sinister bulk on the white ground. It had an air of brooding. He let his arm fall by his side — discouraged.

Ziemianitch’s passionate surrender to sorrow and consolation had baffled him. That was the people. A true Russian man! Razumov was glad he had beaten that brute — the “bright soul” of the other. Here they were: the people and the enthusiast.

Between the two he was done for. Between the drunkenness of the peasant incapable of action and the dream-intoxication of the idealist incapable of perceiving the reason of things, and the true character of men. It was a sort of terrible childishness. But children had their masters. “Ah! the stick, the stick, the stern hand,” thought Razumov, longing for power to hurt and destroy.

He was glad he had thrashed that brute. The physical exertion had left his body in a comfortable glow. His mental agitation too was clarified as if all the feverishness had gone out of him in a fit of outward violence. Together with the persisting sense of terrible danger he was conscious now of a tranquil, unquenchable hate.

He walked slower and slower. And indeed, considering the guest he had in his rooms, it was no wonder he lingered on the way. It was like harbouring a pestilential disease that would not perhaps take your life, but would take from you all that made life worth living — a subtle pest that would convert earth into a hell.

What was he doing now? Lying on the bed as if dead, with the back of his hands over his eyes? Razumov had a morbidly vivid vision of Haldin on his bed — the white pillow hollowed by the head, the legs in long boots, the upturned feet. And in his abhorrence he said to himself, “I’ll kill him when I get home.” But he knew very well that that was of no use. The corpse hanging round his neck would be nearly as fatal as the living man. Nothing short of complete annihilation would do. And that was impossible. What then? Must one kill oneself to escape this visitation?

Razumov’s despair was too profoundly tinged with hate to accept that issue.

And yet it was despair — nothing less — at the thought of having to live with Haldin for an indefinite number of days in mortal alarm at every sound. But perhaps when he heard that this “bright soul” of Ziemianitch suffered from a drunken eclipse the fellow would take his infernal resignation somewhere else. And that was not likely on the face of it.

Razumov thought: “I am being crushed — and I can’t even run away.” Other men had somewhere a corner of the earth — some little house in the provinces where they had a right to take their troubles. A material refuge. He had nothing. He had not even a moral refuge — the refuge of confidence. To whom could he go with this tale — in all this great, great land?

Razumov stamped his foot — and under the soft carpet of snow felt the hard ground of Russia, inanimate, cold, inert, like a sullen and tragic mother hiding her face under a winding-sheet — his native soil! — his very own — without a fireside, without a heart!

He cast his eyes upwards and stood amazed. The snow had ceased to fall, and now, as if by a miracle, he saw above his head the clear black sky of the northern winter, decorated with the sumptuous fires of the stars. It was a canopy fit for the resplendent purity of the snows.

Razumov received an almost physical impression of endless space and of countless millions.

He responded to it with the readiness of a Russian who is born to an inheritance of space and numbers. Under the sumptuous immensity of the sky, the snow covered the endless forests, the frozen rivers, the plains of an immense country, obliterating the landmarks, the accidents of the ground, levelling everything under its uniform whiteness, like a monstrous blank page awaiting the record of an inconceivable history. It covered the passive land with its lives of countless people like Ziemianitch and its handful of agitators like this Haldin — murdering foolishly.

It was a sort of sacred inertia. Razumov felt a respect for it. A voice seemed to cry within him, “Don’t touch it.” It was a guarantee of duration, of safety, while the travail of maturing destiny went on — a work not of revolutions with their passionate levity of action and their shifting impulses — but of peace. What it needed was not the conflicting aspirations of a people, but a will strong and one: it wanted not the babble of many voices, but a man — strong and one!

Razumov stood on the point of conversion. He was fascinated by its approach, by its overpowering logic. For a train of thought is never false. The falsehood lies deep in the necessities of existence, in secret fears and half-formed ambitions, in the secret confidence combined with a secret mistrust of ourselves, in the love of hope and the dread of uncertain days.

In Russia, the land of spectral ideas and disembodied aspirations, many brave minds have turned away at last from the vain and endless conflict to the one great historical fact of the land. They turned to autocracy for the peace of their patriotic conscience as a weary unbeliever, touched by grace, turns to the faith of his fathers for the blessing of spiritual rest. Like other Russians before him, Razumov, in conflict with himself, felt the touch of grace upon his forehead.

“Haldin means disruption,” he thought to himself, beginning to walk again. “What is he with his indignation, with his talk of bondage — with his talk of God’s justice? All that means disruption. Better that thousands should suffer than that a people should become a disintegrated mass, helpless like dust in the wind. Obscurantism is better than the light of incendiary torches. The seed germinates in the night. Out of the dark soil springs the perfect plant. But a volcanic eruption is sterile, the ruin of the fertile ground. And am I, who love my country — who have nothing but that to love and put my faith in — am I to have my future, perhaps my usefulness, ruined by this sanguinary fanatic?”

The grace entered into Razumov. He believed now in the man who would come at the appointed time.

What is a throne? A few pieces of wood upholstered in velvet. But a throne is a seat of power too. The form of government is the shape of a tool — an instrument. But twenty thousand bladders inflated by the noblest sentiments and jostling against each other in the air are a miserable incumbrance of space, holding no power, possessing no will, having nothing to give.

He went on thus, heedless of the way, holding a discourse with himself with extraordinary abundance and facility. Generally his phrases came to him slowly, after a conscious and painstaking wooing. Some superior power had inspired him with a flow of masterly argument as certain converted sinners become overwhelmingly loquacious.

He felt an austere exultation.

“What are the luridly smoky lucubrations of that fellow to the clear grasp of my intellect?” he thought. “Is not this my country? Have I not got forty million brothers?” he asked himself, unanswerably victorious in the silence of his breast. And the fearful thrashing he had given the inanimate Ziemianitch seemed to him a sign of intimate union, a pathetically severe necessity of brotherly love. “No! If I must suffer let me at least suffer for my convictions, not for a crime my reason — my cool superior reason — rejects.”

He ceased to think for a moment. The silence in his breast was complete. But he felt a suspicious uneasiness, such as we may experience when we enter an unlighted strange place — the irrational feeling that something may jump upon us in the dark — the absurd dread of the unseen.

Of course he was far from being a moss-grown reactionary. Everything was not for the best. Despotic bureaucracy... abuses... corruption... and so on. Capable men were wanted. Enlightened intelligences. Devoted hearts. But absolute power should be preserved — the tool ready for the man — for the great autocrat of the future. Razumov believed in him. The logic of history made him unavoidable. The state of the people demanded him, “What else?” he asked himself ardently, “could move all that mass in one direction? Nothing could. Nothing but a single will.”

He was persuaded that he was sacrificing his personal longings of liberalism — rejecting the attractive error for the stern Russian truth. “That’s patriotism,” he observed mentally, and added, “There’s no stopping midway on that road,” and then remarked to himself, “I am not a coward.”

And again there was a dead silence in Razumov’s breast. He walked with lowered head, making room for no one. He walked slowly and his thoughts returning spoke within him with solemn slowness.

“What is this Haldin? And what am I? Only two grains of sand. But a great mountain is made up of just such insignificant grains. And the death of a man or of many men is an insignificant thing. Yet we combat a contagious pestilence. Do I want his death? No! I would save him if I could — but no one can do that — he is the withered member which must be cut off. If I must perish through him, let me at least not perish with him, and associated against my will with his sombre folly that understands nothing either of men or things. Why should I leave a false memory?”

It passed through his mind that there was no one in the world who cared what sort of memory he left behind him. He exclaimed to himself instantly, “Perish vainly for a falsehood!... What a miserable fate!”

He was now in a more animated part of the town. He did not remark the crash of two colliding sledges close to the curb. The driver of one bellowed tearfully at his fellow —

“Oh, thou vile wretch!”

This hoarse yell, let out nearly in his ear, disturbed Razumov. He shook his head impatiently and went on looking straight before him. Suddenly on the snow, stretched on his back right across his path, he saw Haldin, solid, distinct, real, with his inverted hands over his eyes, clad in a brown close-fitting coat and long boots. He was lying out of the way a little, as though he had selected that place on purpose. The snow round him was untrodden.

This hallucination had such a solidity of aspect that the first movement of Razumov was to reach for his pocket to assure himself that the key of his rooms was there. But he checked the impulse with a disdainful curve of his lips. He understood. His thought, concentrated intensely on the figure left lying on his bed, had culminated in this extraordinary illusion of the sight. Razumov tackled the phenomenon calmly. With a stern face, without a check and gazing far beyond the vision, he walked on, experiencing nothing but a slight tightening of the chest. After passing he turned his head for a glance, and saw only the unbroken track of his footsteps over the place where the breast of the phantom had been lying.

Razumov walked on and after a little time whispered his wonder to himself.

“Exactly as if alive! Seemed to breathe! And right in my way too! I have had an extraordinary experience.”

He made a few steps and muttered through his set teeth —

“I shall give him up.”

Then for some twenty yards or more all was blank. He wrapped his cloak closer round him. He pulled his cap well forward over his eyes.

“Betray. A great word. What is betrayal? They talk of a man betraying his country, his friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral bond first. All a man can betray is his conscience. And how is my conscience engaged here; by what bond of common faith, of common conviction, am I obliged to let that fanatical idiot drag me down with him? On the contrary — every obligation of true courage is the other way.”

Razumov looked round from under his cap.

“What can the prejudice of the world reproach me with? Have I provoked his confidence? No! Have I by a single word, look, or gesture given him reason to suppose that I accepted his trust in me? No! It is true that I consented to go and see his Ziemianitch. Well, I have been to see him. And I broke a stick on his back too — the brute.”

Something seemed to turn over in his head bringing uppermost a singularly hard, clear facet of his brain.

“It would be better, however,” he reflected with a quite different mental accent, “to keep that circumstance altogether to myself.”

He had passed beyond the turn leading to his lodgings, and had reached a wide and fashionable street. Some shops were still open, and all the restaurants. Lights fell on the pavement where men in expensive fur coats, with here and there the elegant figure of a woman, walked with an air of leisure. Razumov looked at them with the contempt of an austere believer for the frivolous crowd. It was the world — those officers, dignitaries, men of fashion, officials, members of the Yacht Club. The event of the morning affected them all. What would they say if they knew what this student in a cloak was going to do?

“Not one of them is capable of feeling and thinking as deeply as I can. How many of them could accomplish an act of conscience?”

Razumov lingered in the well-lighted street. He was firmly decided. Indeed, it could hardly be called a decision. He had simply discovered what he had meant to do all along. And yet he felt the need of some other mind’s sanction.

With something resembling anguish he said to himself —

“I want to be understood.” The universal aspiration with all its profound and melancholy meaning assailed heavily Razumov, who, amongst eighty millions of his kith and kin, had no heart to which he could open himself.

The attorney was not to be thought of. He despised the little agent of chicane too much. One could not go and lay one’s conscience before the policeman at the corner. Neither was Razumov anxious to go to the chief of his district’s police — a common-looking person whom he used to see sometimes in the street in a shabby uniform and with a smouldering cigarette stuck to his lower lip. “He would begin by locking me up most probably. At any rate, he is certain to get excited and create an awful commotion,” thought Razumov practically.

An act of conscience must be done with outward dignity.

Razumov longed desperately for a word of advice, for moral support. Who knows what true loneliness is — not the conventional word, but the naked terror? To the lonely themselves it wears a mask. The most miserable outcast hugs some memory or some illusion. Now and then a fatal conjunction of events may lift the veil for an instant. For an instant only. No human being could bear a steady view of moral solitude without going mad.

Razumov had reached that point of vision. To escape from it he embraced for a whole minute the delirious purpose of rushing to his lodgings and flinging himself on his knees by the side of the bed with the dark figure stretched on it; to pour out a full confession in passionate words that would stir the whole being of that man to its innermost depths; that would end in embraces and tears; in an incredible fellowship of souls — such as the world had never seen. It was sublime!

Inwardly he wept and trembled already. But to the casual eyes that were cast upon him he was aware that he appeared as a tranquil student in a cloak, out for a leisurely stroll. He noted, too, the sidelong, brilliant glance of a pretty woman — with a delicate head, and covered in the hairy skins of wild beasts down to her feet, like a frail and beautiful savage — which rested for a moment with a sort of mocking tenderness on the deep abstraction of that good-looking young man.

Suddenly Razumov stood still. The glimpse of a passing grey whisker, caught and lost in the same instant, had evoked the complete image of Prince K — -, the man who once had pressed his hand as no other man had pressed it — a faint but lingering pressure like a secret sign, like a half-unwilling caress.

And Razumov marvelled at himself. Why did he not think of him before!

“A senator, a dignitary, a great personage, the very man — He!”

A strange softening emotion came over Razumov — made his knees shake a little. He repressed it with a new-born austerity. All that sentiment was pernicious nonsense. He couldn’t be quick enough; and when he got into a sledge he shouted to the driver — ”to the K — - Palace. Get on — you! Fly!” The startled moujik, bearded up to the very whites of his eyes, answered obsequiously —

“I hear, your high Nobility.”

It was lucky for Razumov that Prince K — - was not a man of timid character. On the day of Mr. de P — -’s murder an extreme alarm and despondency prevailed in the high official spheres.

Prince K — -, sitting sadly alone in his study, was told by his alarmed servants that a mysterious young man had forced his way into the hall, refused to tell his name and the nature of his business, and would not move from there till he had seen his Excellency in private. Instead of locking himself up and telephoning for the police, as nine out of ten high personages would have done that evening, the Prince gave way to curiosity and came quietly to the door of his study.

In the hall, the front door standing wide open, he recognised at once Razumov, pale as death, his eyes blazing, and surrounded by perplexed lackeys.

The Prince was vexed beyond measure, and even indignant. But his humane instincts and a subtle sense of self-respect could not allow him to let this young man be thrown out into the street by base menials. He retreated unseen into his room, and after a little rang his bell. Razumov heard in the hall an ominously raised harsh voice saying somewhere far away —

“Show the gentleman in here.”

Razumov walked in without a tremor. He felt himself invulnerable — raised far above the shallowness of common judgment. Though he saw the Prince looking at him with black displeasure, the lucidity of his mind, of which he was very conscious, gave him an extraordinary assurance. He was not asked to sit down.

Half an hour later they appeared in the hall together. The lackeys stood up, and the Prince, moving with difficulty on his gouty feet, was helped into his furs. The carriage had been ordered before. When the great double door was flung open with a crash, Razumov, who had been standing silent with a lost gaze but with every faculty intensely on the alert, heard the Prince’s voice —

“Your arm, young man.”

The mobile, superficial mind of the ex-Guards officer, man of showy missions, experienced in nothing but the arts of gallant intrigue and worldly success, had been equally impressed by the more obvious difficulties of such a situation and by Razumov’s quiet dignity in stating them.

He had said, “No. Upon the whole I can’t condemn the step you ventured to take by coming to me with your story. It is not an affair for police understrappers. The greatest importance is attached to.... Set your mind at rest. I shall see you through this most extraordinary and difficult situation.”

Then the Prince rose to ring the bell, and Razumov, making a short bow, had said with deference —

“I have trusted my instinct. A young man having no claim upon anybody in the world has in an hour of trial involving his deepest political convictions turned to an illustrious Russian — that’s all.”

The Prince had exclaimed hastily —

“You have done well.”

In the carriage — it was a small brougham on sleigh runners — Razumov broke the silence in a voice that trembled slightly.

“My gratitude surpasses the greatness of my presumption.”

He gasped, feeling unexpectedly in the dark a momentary pressure on his arm.

“You have done well,” repeated the Prince.

When the carriage stopped the Prince murmured to Razumov, who had never ventured a single question —

“The house of General T — -.”

In the middle of the snow-covered roadway blazed a great bonfire. Some Cossacks, the bridles of their horses over the arm, were warming themselves around. Two sentries stood at the door, several gendarmes lounged under the great carriage gateway, and on the first-floor landing two orderlies rose and stood at attention. Razumov walked at the Prince’s elbow.

A surprising quantity of hot-house plants in pots cumbered the floor of the ante-room. Servants came forward. A young man in civilian clothes arrived hurriedly, was whispered to, bowed low, and exclaiming zealously, “Certainly — this minute,” fled within somewhere. The Prince signed to Razumov.

They passed through a suite of reception-rooms all barely lit and one of them prepared for dancing. The wife of the General had put off her party. An atmosphere of consternation pervaded the place. But the General’s own room, with heavy sombre hangings, two massive desks, and deep armchairs, had all the lights turned on. The footman shut the door behind them and they waited.

There was a coal fire in an English grate; Razumov had never before seen such a fire; and the silence of the room was like the silence of the grave; perfect, measureless, for even the clock on the mantelpiece made no sound. Filling a corner, on a black pedestal, stood a quarter-life-size smooth-limbed bronze of an adolescent figure, running. The Prince observed in an undertone —

“Spontini’s. ‘Flight of Youth.’ Exquisite.”

“Admirable,” assented Razumov faintly.

They said nothing more after this, the Prince silent with his grand air, Razumov staring at the statue. He was worried by a sensation resembling the gnawing of hunger.

He did not turn when he heard an inner door fly open, and a quick footstep, muffled on the carpet.

The Prince’s voice immediately exclaimed, thick with excitement —

“We have got him — ce miserable. A worthy young man came to me — No! It’s incredible....”

Razumov held his breath before the bronze as if expecting a crash. Behind his back a voice he had never heard before insisted politely —

“Asseyez-vous donc.”

The Prince almost shrieked, “Mais comprenez-vous, mon cher! L’assassin! the murderer — we have got him....”

Razumov spun round. The General’s smooth big cheeks rested on the stiff collar of his uniform. He must have been already looking at Razumov, because that last saw the pale blue eyes fastened on him coldly.

The Prince from a chair waved an impressive hand.

“This is a most honourable young man whom Providence itself... Mr. Razumov.”

The General acknowledged the introduction by frowning at Razumov, who did not make the slightest movement.

Sitting down before his desk the General listened with compressed lips. It was impossible to detect any sign of emotion on his face.

Razumov watched the immobility of the fleshy profile. But it lasted only a moment, till the Prince had finished; and when the General turned to the providential young man, his florid complexion, the blue, unbelieving eyes and the bright white flash of an automatic smile had an air of jovial, careless cruelty. He expressed no wonder at the extraordinary story — no pleasure or excitement — no incredulity either. He betrayed no sentiment whatever. Only with a politeness almost deferential suggested that “the bird might have flown while Mr. — Mr. Razumov was running about the streets.”

Razumov advanced to the middle of the room and said, “The door is locked and I have the key in my pocket.”

His loathing for the man was intense. It had come upon him so unawares that he felt he had not kept it out of his voice. The General looked up at him thoughtfully, and Razumov grinned.

All this went over the head of Prince K — - seated in a deep armchair, very tired and impatient.

“A student called Haldin,” said the General thoughtfully.

Razumov ceased to grin.

“That is his name,” he said unnecessarily loud. “Victor Victorovitch Haldin — a student.”

The General shifted his position a little.

“How is he dressed? Would you have the goodness to tell me?”

Razumov angrily described Haldin’s clothing in a few jerky words. The General stared all the time, then addressing the Prince —

“We were not without some indications,” he said in French. “A good woman who was in the street described to us somebody wearing a dress of the sort as the thrower of the second bomb. We have detained her at the Secretariat, and every one in a Tcherkess coat we could lay our hands on has been brought to her to look at. She kept on crossing herself and shaking her head at them. It was exasperating....” He turned to Razumov, and in Russian, with friendly reproach —

“Take a chair, Mr. Razumov — do. Why are you standing?”

Razumov sat down carelessly and looked at the General.

“This goggle-eyed imbecile understands nothing,” he thought.

The Prince began to speak loftily.

“Mr. Razumov is a young man of conspicuous abilities. I have it at heart that his future should not....”

“Certainly,” interrupted the General, with a movement of the hand. “Has he any weapons on him, do you think, Mr. Razumov?”

The General employed a gentle musical voice. Razumov answered with suppressed irritation —

“No. But my razors are lying about — you understand.”

The General lowered his head approvingly.


Then to the Prince, explaining courteously —

“We want that bird alive. It will be the devil if we can’t make him sing a little before we are done with him.”

The grave-like silence of the room with its mute clock fell upon the polite modulations of this terrible phrase. The Prince, hidden in the chair, made no sound.

The General unexpectedly developed a thought.

“Fidelity to menaced institutions on which depend the safety of a throne and of a people is no child’s play. We know that, mon Prince, and — tenez — ” he went on with a sort of flattering harshness, “Mr. Razumov here begins to understand that too.”

His eyes which he turned upon Razumov seemed to be starting out of his head. This grotesqueness of aspect no longer shocked Razumov. He said with gloomy conviction —

“Haldin will never speak.”

“That remains to be seen,” muttered the General.

“I am certain,” insisted Razumov. “A man like this never speaks.... Do you imagine that I am here from fear?” he added violently. He felt ready to stand by his opinion of Haldin to the last extremity.

“Certainly not,” protested the General, with great simplicity of tone. “And I don’t mind telling you, Mr. Razumov, that if he had not come with his tale to such a staunch and loyal Russian as you, he would have disappeared like a stone in the water... which would have had a detestable effect,” he added, with a bright, cruel smile under his stony stare. “So you see, there can be no suspicion of any fear here.”

The Prince intervened, looking at Razumov round the back of the armchair.

“Nobody doubts the moral soundness of your action. Be at ease in that respect, pray.”

He turned to the General uneasily.

“That’s why I am here. You may be surprised why I should....”

The General hastened to interrupt.

“Not at all. Extremely natural. You saw the importance....”

“Yes,” broke in the Prince. “And I venture to ask insistently that mine and Mr. Razumov’s intervention should not become public. He is a young man of promise — of remarkable aptitudes.”

“I haven’t a doubt of it,” murmured the General. “He inspires confidence.”

“All sorts of pernicious views are so widespread nowadays — they taint such unexpected quarters — that, monstrous as it seems, he might suffer ...his studies...his...”

The General, with his elbows on the desk, took his head between his hands.

“Yes. Yes. I am thinking it out.... How long is it since you left him at your rooms, Mr. Razumov?”

Razumov mentioned the hour which nearly corresponded with the time of his distracted flight from the big slum house. He had made up his mind to keep Ziemianitch out of the affair completely. To mention him at all would mean imprisonment for the “bright soul,” perhaps cruel floggings, and in the end a journey to Siberia in chains. Razumov, who had beaten Ziemianitch, felt for him now a vague, remorseful tenderness.

The General, giving way for the first time to his secret sentiments, exclaimed contemptuously —

“And you say he came in to make you this confidence like this — for nothing — a propos des bottes.”

Razumov felt danger in the air. The merciless suspicion of despotism had spoken openly at last. Sudden fear sealed Razumov’s lips. The silence of the room resembled now the silence of a deep dungeon, where time does not count, and a suspect person is sometimes forgotten for ever. But the Prince came to the rescue.

“Providence itself has led the wretch in a moment of mental aberration to seek Mr. Razumov on the strength of some old, utterly misinterpreted exchange of ideas — some sort of idle speculative conversation — months ago — I am told — and completely forgotten till now by Mr. Razumov.”

“Mr. Razumov,” queried the General meditatively, after a short silence, “do you often indulge in speculative conversation?”

“No, Excellency,” answered Razumov, coolly, in a sudden access of self-confidence. “I am a man of deep convictions. Crude opinions are in the air. They are not always worth combating. But even the silent contempt of a serious mind may be misinterpreted by headlong utopists.”

The General stared from between his hands. Prince K — - murmured —

“A serious young man. Un esprit superieur.”

“I see that, mon cher Prince,” said the General. “Mr. Razumov is quite safe with me. I am interested in him. He has, it seems, the great and useful quality of inspiring confidence. What I was wondering at is why the other should mention anything at all — I mean even the bare fact alone — if his object was only to obtain temporary shelter for a few hours. For, after all, nothing was easier than to say nothing about it unless, indeed, he were trying, under a crazy misapprehension of your true sentiments, to enlist your assistance — eh, Mr. Razumov?”

It seemed to Razumov that the floor was moving slightly. This grotesque man in a tight uniform was terrible. It was right that he should be terrible.

“I can see what your Excellency has in your mind. But I can only answer that I don’t know why.”

“I have nothing in my mind,” murmured the General, with gentle surprise.

“I am his prey — his helpless prey,” thought Razumov. The fatigues and the disgusts of that afternoon, the need to forget, the fear which he could not keep off, reawakened his hate for Haldin.

“Then I can’t help your Excellency. I don’t know what he meant. I only know there was a moment when I wished to kill him. There was also a moment when I wished myself dead. I said nothing. I was overcome. I provoked no confidence — I asked for no explanations — ”

Razumov seemed beside himself; but his mind was lucid. It was really a calculated outburst.

“It is rather a pity,” the General said, “that you did not. Don’t you know at all what he means to do?” Razumov calmed down and saw an opening there.

“He told me he was in hopes that a sledge would meet him about half an hour after midnight at the seventh lamp-post on the left from the upper end of Karabelnaya. At any rate, he meant to be there at that time. He did not even ask me for a change of clothes.”

“Ah voila!” said the General, turning to Prince K with an air of satisfaction. “There is a way to keep your protege, Mr. Razumov, quite clear of any connexion with the actual arrest. We shall be ready for that gentleman in Karabelnaya.”

The Prince expressed his gratitude. There was real emotion in his voice. Razumov, motionless, silent, sat staring at the carpet. The General turned to him.

“Half an hour after midnight. Till then we have to depend on you, Mr. Razumov. You don’t think he is likely to change his purpose?”

“How can I tell?” said Razumov. “Those men are not of the sort that ever changes its purpose.”

“What men do you mean?”

“Fanatical lovers of liberty in general. Liberty with a capital L, Excellency. Liberty that means nothing precise. Liberty in whose name crimes are committed.”

The General murmured —

“I detest rebels of every kind. I can’t help it. It’s my nature!”

He clenched a fist and shook it, drawing back his arm. “They shall be destroyed, then.”

“They have made a sacrifice of their lives beforehand,” said Razumov with malicious pleasure and looking the General straight in the face. “If Haldin does change his purpose to-night, you may depend on it that it will not be to save his life by flight in some other way. He would have thought then of something else to attempt. But that is not likely.”

The General repeated as if to himself, “They shall be destroyed.”

Razumov assumed an impenetrable expression.

The Prince exclaimed —

“What a terrible necessity!”

The General’s arm was lowered slowly.

“One comfort there is. That brood leaves no posterity. I’ve always said it, one effort, pitiless, persistent, steady — and we are done with them for ever.”

Razumov thought to himself that this man entrusted with so much arbitrary power must have believed what he said or else he could not have gone on bearing the responsibility.

“I detest rebels. These subversive minds! These intellectual debauches! My existence has been built on fidelity. It’s a feeling. To defend it I am ready to lay down my life — and even my honour — if that were needed. But pray tell me what honour can there be as against rebels — against people that deny God Himself — perfect unbelievers! Brutes. It is horrible to think of.”

During this tirade Razumov, facing the General, had nodded slightly twice. Prince K — -, standing on one side with his grand air, murmured, casting up his eyes —


Then lowering his glance and with great decision declared —

“This young man, General, is perfectly fit to apprehend the bearing of your memorable words.”

The General’s whole expression changed from dull resentment to perfect urbanity.

“I would ask now, Mr. Razumov,” he said, “to return to his home. Note that I don’t ask Mr. Razumov whether he has justified his absence to his guest. No doubt he did this sufficiently. But I don’t ask. Mr. Razumov inspires confidence. It is a great gift. I only suggest that a more prolonged absence might awaken the criminal’s suspicions and induce him perhaps to change his plans.”

He rose and with a scrupulous courtesy escorted his visitors to the ante-room encumbered with flower-pots.

Razumov parted with the Prince at the corner of a street. In the carriage he had listened to speeches where natural sentiment struggled with caution. Evidently the Prince was afraid of encouraging any hopes of future intercourse. But there was a touch of tenderness in the voice uttering in the dark the guarded general phrases of goodwill. And the Prince too said —

“I have perfect confidence in you, Mr. Razumov.”

“They all, it seems, have confidence in me,” thought Razumov dully. He had an indulgent contempt for the man sitting shoulder to shoulder with him in the confined space. Probably he was afraid of scenes with his wife. She was said to be proud and violent.

It seemed to him bizarre that secrecy should play such a large part in the comfort and safety of lives. But he wanted to put the Prince’s mind at ease; and with a proper amount of emphasis he said that, being conscious of some small abilities and confident in his power of work, he trusted his future to his own exertions. He expressed his gratitude for the helping hand. Such dangerous situations did not occur twice in the course of one life — he added.

“And you have met this one with a firmness of mind and correctness of feeling which give me a high idea of your worth,” the Prince said solemnly. “You have now only to persevere — to persevere.”

On getting out on the pavement Razumov saw an ungloved hand extended to him through the lowered window of the brougham. It detained his own in its grasp for a moment, while the light of a street lamp fell upon the Prince’s long face and old-fashioned grey whiskers.

“I hope you are perfectly reassured now as to the consequences...”

“After what your Excellency has condescended to do for me, I can only rely on my conscience.”

“Adieu,” said the whiskered head with feeling.

Razumov bowed. The brougham glided away with a slight swish in the snow — he was alone on the edge of the pavement.

He said to himself that there was nothing to think about, and began walking towards his home.

He walked quietly. It was a common experience to walk thus home to bed after an evening spent somewhere with his fellows or in the cheaper seats of a theatre. After he had gone a little way the familiarity of things got hold of him. Nothing was changed. There was the familiar corner; and when he turned it he saw the familiar dim light of the provision shop kept by a German woman. There were loaves of stale bread, bunches of onions and strings of sausages behind the small window-panes. They were closing it. The sickly lame fellow whom he knew so well by sight staggered out into the snow embracing a large shutter.

Nothing would change. There was the familiar gateway yawning black with feeble glimmers marking the arches of the different staircases.

The sense of life’s continuity depended on trifling bodily impressions. The trivialities of daily existence were an armour for the soul. And this thought reinforced the inward quietness of Razumov as he began to climb the stairs familiar to his feet in the dark, with his hand on the familiar clammy banister. The exceptional could not prevail against the material contacts which make one day resemble another. To-morrow would be like yesterday.

It was only on the stage that the unusual was outwardly acknowledged.

“I suppose,” thought Razumov, “that if I had made up my mind to blow out my brains on the landing I would be going up these stairs as quietly as I am doing it now. What’s a man to do? What must be must be. Extraordinary things do happen. But when they have happened they are done with. Thus, too, when the mind is made up. That question is done with. And the daily concerns, the familiarities of our thought swallow it up — and the life goes on as before with its mysterious and secret sides quite out of sight, as they should be. Life is a public thing.”

Razumov unlocked his door and took the key out; entered very quietly and bolted the door behind him carefully.

He thought, “He hears me,” and after bolting the door he stood still holding his breath. There was not a sound. He crossed the bare outer room, stepping deliberately in the darkness. Entering the other, he felt all over his table for the matchbox. The silence, but for the groping of his hand, was profound. Could the fellow be sleeping so soundly?

He struck a light and looked at the bed. Haldin was lying on his back as before, only both his hands were under his head. His eyes were open. He stared at the ceiling.

Razumov held the match up. He saw the clear-cut features, the firm chin, the white forehead and the topknot of fair hair against the white pillow. There he was, lying flat on his back. Razumov thought suddenly, “I have walked over his chest.”

He continued to stare till the match burnt itself out; then struck another and lit the lamp in silence without looking towards the bed any more. He had turned his back on it and was hanging his coat on a peg when he heard Haldin sigh profoundly, then ask in a tired voice —

“Well! And what have you arranged?”

The emotion was so great that Razumov was glad to put his hands against the wall. A diabolical impulse to say, “I have given you up to the police,” frightened him exceedingly. But he did not say that. He said, without turning round, in a muffled voice —

“It’s done.”

Again he heard Haldin sigh. He walked to the table, sat down with the lamp before him, and only then looked towards the bed.

In the distant corner of the large room far away from the lamp, which was small and provided with a very thick china shade, Haldin appeared like a dark and elongated shape — rigid with the immobility of death. This body seemed to have less substance than its own phantom walked over by Razumov in the street white with snow. It was more alarming in its shadowy, persistent reality than the distinct but vanishing illusion.

Haldin was heard again.

“You must have had a walk — such a walk,...” he murmured deprecatingly. “This weather....”

Razumov answered with energy —

“Horrible walk.... A nightmare of a walk.”

He shuddered audibly. Haldin sighed once more, then —

“And so you have seen Ziemianitch — brother?”

“I’ve seen him.”

Razumov, remembering the time he had spent with the Prince, thought it prudent to add, “I had to wait some time.”

“A character — eh? It’s extraordinary what a sense of the necessity of freedom there is in that man. And he has sayings too — simple, to the point, such as only the people can invent in their rough sagacity. A character that....”

“I, you understand, haven’t had much opportunity....” Razumov muttered through his teeth.

Haldin continued to stare at the ceiling.

“You see, brother, I have been a good deal in that house of late. I used to take there books — leaflets. Not a few of the poor people who live there can read. And, you see, the guests for the feast of freedom must be sought for in byways and hedges. The truth is, I have almost lived in that house of late. I slept sometimes in the stable. There is a stable....”

“That’s where I had my interview with Ziemianitch,” interrupted Razumov gently. A mocking spirit entered into him and he added, “It was satisfactory in a sense. I came away from it much relieved.”

“Ah! he’s a fellow,” went on Haldin, talking slowly at the ceiling. “I came to know him in that way, you see. For some weeks now, ever since I resigned myself to do what had to be done, I tried to isolate myself. I gave up my rooms. What was the good of exposing a decent widow woman to the risk of being worried out of her mind by the police? I gave up seeing any of our comrades....”

Razumov drew to himself a half-sheet of paper and began to trace lines on it with a pencil.

“Upon my word,” he thought angrily, “he seems to have thought of everybody’s safety but mine.”

Haldin was talking on.

“This morning — ah! this morning — that was different. How can I explain to you? Before the deed was done I wandered at night and lay hid in the day, thinking it out, and I felt restful. Sleepless but restful. What was there for me to torment myself about? But this morning — after! Then it was that I became restless. I could not have stopped in that big house full of misery. The miserable of this world can’t give you peace. Then when that silly caretaker began to shout, I said to myself, ‘There is a young man in this town head and shoulders above common prejudices.’“

“Is he laughing at me?” Razumov asked himself, going on with his aimless drawing of triangles and squares. And suddenly he thought: “My behaviour must appear to him strange. Should he take fright at my manner and rush off somewhere I shall be undone completely. That infernal General....”

He dropped the pencil and turned abruptly towards the bed with the shadowy figure extended full length on it — so much more indistinct than the one over whose breast he had walked without faltering. Was this, too, a phantom?

The silence had lasted a long time. “He is no longer here,” was the thought against which Razumov struggled desperately, quite frightened at its absurdity. “He is already gone and this...only...”

He could resist no longer. He sprang to his feet, saying aloud, “I am intolerably anxious,” and in a few headlong strides stood by the side of the bed. His hand fell lightly on Haldin’s shoulder, and directly he felt its reality he was beset by an insane temptation to grip that exposed throat and squeeze the breath out of that body, lest it should escape his custody, leaving only a phantom behind.

Haldin did not stir a limb, but his overshadowed eyes moving a little gazed upwards at Razumov with wistful gratitude for this manifestation of feeling.

Razumov turned away and strode up and down the room. “It would have been possibly a kindness,” he muttered to himself, and was appalled by the nature of that apology for a murderous intention his mind had found somewhere within him. And all the same he could not give it up. He became lucid about it. “What can he expect?” he thought. “The halter — in the end. And I....”

This argument was interrupted by Haldin’s voice.

“Why be anxious for me? They can kill my body, but they cannot exile my soul from this world. I tell you what — I believe in this world so much that I cannot conceive eternity otherwise than as a very long life. That is perhaps the reason I am so ready to die.”

“H’m,” muttered Razumov, and biting his lower lip he continued to walk up and down and to carry on his strange argument.

Yes, to a man in such a situation — of course it would be an act of kindness. The question, however, was not how to be kind, but how to be firm. He was a slippery customer.

“I too, Victor Victorovitch, believe in this world of ours,” he said with force. “I too, while I live.... But you seem determined to haunt it. You can’t seriously...mean...”

The voice of the motionless Haldin began —

“Haunt it! Truly, the oppressors of thought which quickens the world, the destroyers of souls which aspire to perfection of human dignity, they shall be haunted. As to the destroyers of my mere body, I have forgiven them beforehand.”

Razumov had stopped apparently to listen, but at the same time he was observing his own sensations. He was vexed with himself for attaching so much importance to what Haldin said.

“The fellow’s mad,” he thought firmly, but this opinion did not mollify him towards Haldin. It was a particularly impudent form of lunacy — and when it got loose in the sphere of public life of a country, it was obviously the duty of every good citizen....

This train of thought broke off short there and was succeeded by a paroxysm of silent hatred towards Haldin, so intense that Razumov hastened to speak at random.

“Yes. Eternity, of course. I, too, can’t very well represent it to myself.... I imagine it, however, as something quiet and dull. There would be nothing unexpected — don’t you see? The element of time would be wanting.”

He pulled out his watch and gazed at it. Haldin turned over on his side and looked on intently.

Razumov got frightened at this movement. A slippery customer this fellow with a phantom. It was not midnight yet. He hastened on —

“And unfathomable mysteries! Can you conceive secret places in Eternity? Impossible. Whereas life is full of them. There are secrets of birth, for instance. One carries them on to the grave. There is something comical...but never mind. And there are secret motives of conduct. A man’s most open actions have a secret side to them. That is interesting and so unfathomable! For instance, a man goes out of a room for a walk. Nothing more trivial in appearance. And yet it may be momentous. He comes back — he has seen perhaps a drunken brute, taken particular notice of the snow on the ground — and behold he is no longer the same man. The most unlikely things have a secret power over one’s thoughts — the grey whiskers of a particular person — the goggle eyes of another.”

Razumov’s forehead was moist. He took a turn or two in the room, his head low and smiling to himself viciously.

“Have you ever reflected on the power of goggle eyes and grey whiskers? Excuse me. You seem to think I must be crazy to talk in this vein at such a time. But I am not talking lightly. I have seen instances. It has happened to me once to be talking to a man whose fate was affected by physical facts of that kind. And the man did not know it. Of course, it was a case of conscience, but the material facts such as these brought about the solution.... And you tell me, Victor Victorovitch, not to be anxious! Why! I am responsible for you,” Razumov almost shrieked.

He avoided with difficulty a burst of Mephistophelian laughter. Haldin, very pale, raised himself on his elbow.

“And the surprises of life,” went on Razumov, after glancing at the other uneasily. “Just consider their astonishing nature. A mysterious impulse induces you to come here. I don’t say you have done wrong. Indeed, from a certain point of view you could not have done better. You might have gone to a man with affections and family ties. You have such ties yourself. As to me, you know I have been brought up in an educational institute where they did not give us enough to eat. To talk of affection in such a connexion — you perceive yourself.... As to ties, the only ties I have in the world are social. I must get acknowledged in some way before I can act at all. I sit here working.... And don’t you think I am working for progress too? I’ve got to find my own ideas of the true way.... Pardon me,” continued Razumov, after drawing breath and with a short, throaty laugh, “but I haven’t inherited a revolutionary inspiration together with a resemblance from an uncle.”

He looked again at his watch and noticed with sickening disgust that there were yet a good many minutes to midnight. He tore watch and chain off his waistcoat and laid them on the table well in the circle of bright lamplight. Haldin, reclining on his elbow, did not stir. Razumov was made uneasy by this attitude. “What move is he meditating over so quietly?” he thought. “He must be prevented. I must keep on talking to him.”

He raised his voice.

“You are a son, a brother, a nephew, a cousin — I don’t know what — to no end of people. I am just a man. Here I stand before you. A man with a mind. Did it ever occur to you how a man who had never heard a word of warm affection or praise in his life would think on matters on which you would think first with or against your class, your domestic tradition — your fireside prejudices?... Did you ever consider how a man like that would feel? I have no domestic tradition. I have nothing to think against. My tradition is historical. What have I to look back to but that national past from which you gentlemen want to wrench away your future? Am I to let my intelligence, my aspirations towards a better lot, be robbed of the only thing it has to go upon at the will of violent enthusiasts? You come from your province, but all this land is mine — or I have nothing. No doubt you shall be looked upon as a martyr some day — a sort of hero — a political saint. But I beg to be excused. I am content in fitting myself to be a worker. And what can you people do by scattering a few drops of blood on the snow? On this Immensity. On this unhappy Immensity! I tell you,” he cried, in a vibrating, subdued voice, and advancing one step nearer the bed, “that what it needs is not a lot of haunting phantoms that I could walk through — but a man!”

Haldin threw his arms forward as if to keep him off in horror.

“I understand it all now,” he exclaimed, with awestruck dismay. “I understand — at last.”

Razumov staggered back against the table. His forehead broke out in perspiration while a cold shudder ran down his spine.

“What have I been saying?” he asked himself. “Have I let him slip through my fingers after all?”

“He felt his lips go stiff like buckram, and instead of a reassuring smile only achieved an uncertain grimace.

“What will you have?” he began in a conciliating voice which got steady after the first trembling word or two. “What will you have? Consider — a man of studious, retired habits — and suddenly like this.... I am not practised in talking delicately. But...”

He felt anger, a wicked anger, get hold of him again.

“What were we to do together till midnight? Sit here opposite each other and think of your — your — shambles?”

Haldin had a subdued, heartbroken attitude. He bowed his head; his hands hung between his knees. His voice was low and pained but calm.

“I see now how it is, Razumov — brother. You are a magnanimous soul, but my action is abhorrent to you — alas....”

Razumov stared. From fright he had set his teeth so hard that his whole face ached. It was impossible for him to make a sound.

“And even my person, too, is loathsome to you perhaps,” Haldin added mournfully, after a short pause, looking up for a moment, then fixing his gaze on the floor. “For indeed, unless one....”

He broke off evidently waiting for a word. Razumov remained silent. Haldin nodded his head dejectedly twice.

“Of course. Of course,” he murmured.... “Ah! weary work!”

He remained perfectly still for a moment, then made Razumov’s leaden heart strike a ponderous blow by springing up briskly.

“So be it,” he cried sadly in a low, distinct tone. “Farewell then.”

Razumov started forward, but the sight of Haldin’s raised hand checked him before he could get away from the table. He leaned on it heavily, listening to the faint sounds of some town clock tolling the hour. Haldin, already at the door, tall and straight as an arrow, with his pale face and a hand raised attentively, might have posed for the statue of a daring youth listening to an inner voice. Razumov mechanically glanced down at his watch. When he looked towards the door again Haldin had vanished. There was a faint rustling in the outer room, the feeble click of a bolt drawn back lightly. He was gone — almost as noiseless as a vision.

Razumov ran forward unsteadily, with parted, voiceless lips. The outer door stood open. Staggering out on the landing, he leaned far over the banister. Gazing down into the deep black shaft with a tiny glimmering flame at the bottom, he traced by ear the rapid spiral descent of somebody running down the stairs on tiptoe. It was a light, swift, pattering sound, which sank away from him into the depths: a fleeting shadow passed over the glimmer — a wink of the tiny flame. Then stillness.

Razumov hung over, breathing the cold raw air tainted by the evil smells of the unclean staircase. All quiet.

He went back into his room slowly, shutting the doors after him. The peaceful steady light of his reading-lamp shone on the watch. Razumov stood looking down at the little white dial. It wanted yet three minutes to midnight. He took the watch into his hand fumblingly.

“Slow,” he muttered, and a strange fit of nervelessness came over him. His knees shook, the watch and chain slipped through his fingers in an instant and fell on the floor. He was so startled that he nearly fell himself. When at last he regained enough confidence in his limbs to stoop for it he held it to his ear at once. After a while he growled —

“Stopped,” and paused for quite a long time before he muttered sourly —

“It’s done.... And now to work.”

He sat down, reached haphazard for a book, opened it in middle and began to read; but after going conscientiously over two lines he lost his hold on the print completely and did not try to regain it. He thought —

“There was to a certainty a police agent of some sort watching the house across the street.”

He imagined him lurking in a dark gateway, goggle-eyed, muffled up in a cloak to the nose and with a General’s plumed, cocked hat on his head. This absurdity made him start in the chair convulsively. He literally had to shake his head violently to get rid of it. The man would be disguised perhaps as a peasant... a beggar.... Perhaps he would be just buttoned up in a dark overcoat and carrying a loaded stick — a shifty-eyed rascal, smelling of raw onions and spirits.

This evocation brought on positive nausea. “Why do I want to bother about this?” thought Razumov with disgust. “Am I a gendarme? Moreover, it is done.”

He got up in great agitation. It was not done. Not yet. Not till half-past twelve. And the watch had stopped. This reduced him to despair. Impossible to know the time! The landlady and all the people across the landing were asleep. How could he go and... God knows what they would imagine, or how much they would guess. He dared not go into the streets to find out. “I am a suspect now. There’s no use shirking that fact,” he said to himself bitterly. If Haldin from some cause or another gave them the slip and failed to turn up in the Karabelnaya the police would be invading his lodging. And if he were not in he could never clear himself. Never. Razumov looked wildly about as if for some means of seizing upon time which seemed to have escaped him altogether. He had never, as far as he could remember, heard the striking of that town clock in his rooms before this night. And he was not even sure now whether he had heard it really on this night.

He went to the window and stood there with slightly bent head on the watch for the faint sound. “I will stay here till I hear something,” he said to himself. He stood still, his ear turned to the panes. An atrocious aching numbness with shooting pains in his back and legs tortured him. He did not budge. His mind hovered on the borders of delirium. He heard himself suddenly saying, “I confess,” as a person might do on the rack. “I am on the rack,” he thought. He felt ready to swoon. The faint deep boom of the distant clock seemed to explode in his head — he heard it so clearly.... One!

If Haldin had not turned up the police would have been already here ransacking the house. No sound reached him. This time it was done.

He dragged himself painfully to the table and dropped into the chair. He flung the book away and took a square sheet of paper. It was like the pile of sheets covered with his neat minute handwriting, only blank. He took a pen brusquely and dipped it with a vague notion of going on with the writing of his essay — but his pen remained poised over the sheet. It hung there for some time before it came down and formed long scrawly letters.

Still-faced and his lips set hard, Razumov began to write. When he wrote a large hand his neat writing lost its character altogether — became unsteady, almost childish. He wrote five lines one under the other. History not Theory. Patriotism not Internationalism. Evolution not Revolution. Direction not Destruction. Unity not Disruption.

He gazed at them dully. Then his eyes strayed to the bed and remained fixed there for a good many minutes, while his right hand groped all over the table for the penknife.

He rose at last, and walking up with measured steps stabbed the paper with the penknife to the lath and plaster wall at the head of the bed. This done he stepped back a pace and flourished his hand with a glance round the room.

After that he never looked again at the bed. He took his big cloak down from its peg and, wrapping himself up closely, went to lie down on the hard horse-hair sofa at the other side of his room. A leaden sleep closed his eyelids at once. Several times that night he woke up shivering from a dream of walking through drifts of snow in a Russia where he was as completely alone as any betrayed autocrat could be; an immense, wintry Russia which, somehow, his view could embrace in all its enormous expanse as if it were a map. But after each shuddering start his heavy eyelids fell over his glazed eyes and he slept again.

Chapter 3

Approaching this part of Mr. Razumov’s story, my mind, the decent mind of an old teacher of languages, feels more and more the difficulty of the task.

The task is not in truth the writing in the narrative form a precis of a strange human document, but the rendering — I perceive it now clearly — of the moral conditions ruling over a large portion of this earth’s surface; conditions not easily to be understood, much less discovered in the limits of a story, till some key-word is found; a word that could stand at the back of all the words covering the pages; a word which, if not truth itself, may perchance hold truth enough to help the moral discovery which should be the object of every tale.

I turn over for the hundredth time the leaves of Mr. Razumov’s record, I lay it aside, I take up the pen — and the pen being ready for its office of setting down black on white I hesitate. For the word that persists in creeping under its point is no other word than “cynicism.”

For that is the mark of Russian autocracy and of Russian revolt. In its pride of numbers, in its strange pretensions of sanctity, and in the secret readiness to abase itself in suffering, the spirit of Russia is the spirit of cynicism. It informs the declarations of her statesmen, the theories of her revolutionists, and the mystic vaticinations of prophets to the point of making freedom look like a form of debauch, and the Christian virtues themselves appear actually indecent.... But I must apologize for the digression. It proceeds from the consideration of the course taken by the story of Mr. Razumov after his conservative convictions, diluted in a vague liberalism natural to the ardour of his age, had become crystallized by the shock of his contact with Haldin.

Razumov woke up for the tenth time perhaps with a heavy shiver. Seeing the light of day in his window, he resisted the inclination to lay himself down again. He did not remember anything, but he did not think it strange to find himself on the sofa in his cloak and chilled to the bone. The light coming through the window seemed strangely cheerless, containing no promise as the light of each new day should for a young man. It was the awakening of a man mortally ill, or of a man ninety years old. He looked at the lamp which had burnt itself out. It stood there, the extinguished beacon of his labours, a cold object of brass and porcelain, amongst the scattered pages of his notes and small piles of books — a mere litter of blackened paper — dead matter — without significance or interest.

He got on his feet, and divesting himself of his cloak hung it on the peg, going through all the motions mechanically. An incredible dullness, a ditch-water stagnation was sensible to his perceptions as though life had withdrawn itself from all things and even from his own thoughts. There was not a sound in the house.

Turning away from the peg, he thought in that same lifeless manner that it must be very early yet; but when he looked at the watch on his table he saw both hands arrested at twelve o’clock.

“Ah! yes,” he mumbled to himself, and as if beginning to get roused a little he took a survey of his room. The paper stabbed to the wall arrested his attention. He eyed it from the distance without approval or perplexity; but when he heard the servant-girl beginning to bustle about in the outer room with the samovar for his morning tea, he walked up to it and took it down with an air of profound indifference.

While doing this he glanced down at the bed on which he had not slept that night. The hollow in the pillow made by the weight of Haldin’s head was very noticeable.

Even his anger at this sign of the man’s passage was dull. He did not try to nurse it into life. He did nothing all that day; he neglected even to brush his hair. The idea of going out never occurred to him — and if he did not start a connected train of thought it was not because he was unable to think. It was because he was not interested enough.

He yawned frequently. He drank large quantities of tea, he walked about aimlessly, and when he sat down he did not budge for a long time. He spent some time drumming on the window with his finger-tips quietly. In his listless wanderings round about the table he caught sight of his own face in the looking-glass and that arrested him. The eyes which returned his stare were the most unhappy eyes he had ever seen. And this was the first thing which disturbed the mental stagnation of that day.

He was not affected personally. He merely thought that life without happiness is impossible. What was happiness? He yawned and went on shuffling about and about between the walls of his room. Looking forward was happiness — that’s all — nothing more. To look forward to the gratification of some desire, to the gratification of some passion, love, ambition, hate — hate too indubitably. Love and hate. And to escape the dangers of existence, to live without fear, was also happiness. There was nothing else. Absence of fear — looking forward. “Oh! the miserable lot of humanity!” he exclaimed mentally; and added at once in his thought, “I ought to be happy enough as far as that goes.” But he was not excited by that assurance. On the contrary, he yawned again as he had been yawning all day. He was mildly surprised to discover himself being overtaken by night. The room grew dark swiftly though time had seemed to stand still. How was it that he had not noticed the passing of that day? Of course, it was the watch being stopped....

He did not light his lamp, but went over to the bed and threw himself on it without any hesitation. Lying on his back, he put his hands under his head and stared upward. After a moment he thought, “I am lying here like that man. I wonder if he slept while I was struggling with the blizzard in the streets. No, he did not sleep. But why should I not sleep?” and he felt the silence of the night press upon all his limbs like a weight.

In the calm of the hard frost outside, the clear-cut strokes of the town clock counting off midnight penetrated the quietness of his suspended animation.

Again he began to think. It was twenty-four hours since that man left his room. Razumov had a distinct feeling that Haldin in the fortress was sleeping that night. It was a certitude which made him angry because he did not want to think of Haldin, but he justified it to himself by physiological and psychological reasons. The fellow had hardly slept for weeks on his own confession, and now every incertitude was at an end for him. No doubt he was looking forward to the consummation of his martyrdom. A man who resigns himself to kill need not go very far for resignation to die. Haldin slept perhaps more soundly than General T — -, whose task — weary work too — was not done, and over whose head hung the sword of revolutionary vengeance.

Razumov, remembering the thick-set man with his heavy jowl resting on the collar of his uniform, the champion of autocracy, who had let no sign of surprise, incredulity, or joy escape him, but whose goggle eyes could express a mortal hatred of all rebellion — Razumov moved uneasily on the bed.

“He suspected me,” he thought. “I suppose he must suspect everybody. He would be capable of suspecting his own wife, if Haldin had gone to her boudoir with his confession.”

Razumov sat up in anguish. Was he to remain a political suspect all his days? Was he to go through life as a man not wholly to be trusted — with a bad secret police note tacked on to his record? What sort of future could he look forward to?

“I am now a suspect,” he thought again; but the habit of reflection and that desire of safety, of an ordered life, which was so strong in him came to his assistance as the night wore on. His quiet, steady, and laborious existence would vouch at length for his loyalty. There were many permitted ways to serve one’s country. There was an activity that made for progress without being revolutionary. The field of influence was great and infinitely varied — once one had conquered a name.

His thought like a circling bird reverted after four-and-twenty hours to the silver medal, and as it were poised itself there.

When the day broke he had not slept, not for a moment, but he got up not very tired and quite sufficiently self-possessed for all practical purposes.

He went out and attended three lectures in the morning. But the work in the library was a mere dumb show of research. He sat with many volumes open before him trying to make notes and extracts. His new tranquillity was like a flimsy garment, and seemed to float at the mercy of a casual word. Betrayal! Why! the fellow had done all that was necessary to betray himself. Precious little had been needed to deceive him.

“I have said no word to him that was not strictly true. Not one word,” Razumov argued with himself.

Once engaged on this line of thought there could be no question of doing useful work. The same ideas went on passing through his mind, and he pronounced mentally the same words over and over again. He shut up all the books and rammed all his papers into his pocket with convulsive movements, raging inwardly against Haldin.

As he was leaving the library a long bony student in a threadbare overcoat joined him, stepping moodily by his side. Razumov answered his mumbled greeting without looking at him at all.

“What does he want with me?” he thought with a strange dread of the unexpected which he tried to shake off lest it should fasten itself upon his life for good and all. And the other, muttering cautiously with downcast eyes, supposed that his comrade had seen the news of de P — -’s executioner — that was the expression he used — having been arrested the night before last....

“I’ve been ill — shut up in my rooms,” Razumov mumbled through his teeth.

The tall student, raising his shoulders, shoved his hands deep into his pockets. He had a hairless, square, tallowy chin which trembled slightly as he spoke, and his nose nipped bright red by the sharp air looked like a false nose of painted cardboard between the sallow cheeks. His whole appearance was stamped with the mark of cold and hunger. He stalked deliberately at Razumov’s elbow with his eyes on the ground.

“It’s an official statement,” he continued in the same cautious mutter. “It may be a lie. But there was somebody arrested between midnight and one in the morning on Tuesday. This is certain.”

And talking rapidly under the cover of his downcast air, he told Razumov that this was known through an inferior Government clerk employed at the Central Secretariat. That man belonged to one of the revolutionary circles. “The same, in fact, I am affiliated to,” remarked the student.

They were crossing a wide quadrangle. An infinite distress possessed Razumov, annihilated his energy, and before his eyes everything appeared confused and as if evanescent. He dared not leave the fellow there. “He may be affiliated to the police,” was the thought that passed through his mind. “Who could tell?” But eyeing the miserable frost-nipped, famine-struck figure of his companion he perceived the absurdity of his suspicion.

“But I — you know — I don’t belong to any circle. I....”

He dared not say any more. Neither dared he mend his pace. The other, raising and setting down his lamentably shod feet with exact deliberation, protested in a low tone that it was not necessary for everybody to belong to an organization. The most valuable personalities remained outside. Some of the best work was done outside the organization. Then very fast, with whispering, feverish lips —

“The man arrested in the street was Haldin.”

And accepting Razumov’s dismayed silence as natural enough, he assured him that there was no mistake. That Government clerk was on night duty at the Secretariat. Hearing a great noise of footsteps in the hall and aware that political prisoners were brought over sometimes at night from the fortress, he opened the door of the room in which he was working, suddenly. Before the gendarme on duty could push him back and slam the door in his face, he had seen a prisoner being partly carried, partly dragged along the hall by a lot of policemen. He was being used very brutally. And the clerk had recognized Haldin perfectly. Less than half an hour afterwards General T — - arrived at the Secretariat to examine that prisoner personally.

“Aren’t you astonished?” concluded the gaunt student.

“No,” said Razumov roughly — and at once regretted his answer.

“Everybody supposed Haldin was in the provinces — with his people. Didn’t you?”

The student turned his big hollow eyes upon Razumov, who said unguardedly —

“His people are abroad.”

He could have bitten his tongue out with vexation. The student pronounced in a tone of profound meaning —

“So! You alone were aware,...” and stopped.

“They have sworn my ruin,” thought Razumov. “Have you spoken of this to anyone else?” he asked with bitter curiosity.

The other shook his head.

“No, only to you. Our circle thought that as Haldin had been often heard expressing a warm appreciation of your character....”

Razumov could not restrain a gesture of angry despair which the other must have misunderstood in some way, because he ceased speaking and turned away his black, lack-lustre eyes.

They moved side by side in silence. Then the gaunt student began to whisper again, with averted gaze —

“As we have at present no one affiliated inside the fortress so as to make it possible to furnish him with a packet of poison, we have considered already some sort of retaliatory action — to follow very soon....”

Razumov trudging on interrupted —

“Were you acquainted with Haldin? Did he know where you live?”

“I had the happiness to hear him speak twice,” his companion answered in the feverish whisper contrasting with the gloomy apathy of his face and bearing. “He did not know where I live.... I am lodging poorly with an artisan family.... I have just a corner in a room. It is not very practicable to see me there, but if you should need me for anything I am ready....”

Razumov trembled with rage and fear. He was beside himself, but kept his voice low.

“You are not to come near me. You are not to speak to me. Never address a single word to me. I forbid you.”

“Very well,” said the other submissively, showing no surprise whatever at this abrupt prohibition. “You don’t wish for secret reasons... perfectly... I understand.”

He edged away at once, not looking up even; and Razumov saw his gaunt, shabby, famine-stricken figure cross the street obliquely with lowered head and that peculiar exact motion of the feet.

He watched him as one would watch a vision out of a nightmare, then he continued on his way, trying not to think. On his landing the landlady seemed to be waiting for him. She was a short, thick, shapeless woman with a large yellow face wrapped up everlastingly in a black woollen shawl. When she saw him come up the last flight of stairs she flung both her arms up excitedly, then clasped her hands before her face.

“Kirylo Sidorovitch — little father — what have you been doing? And such a quiet young man, too! The police are just gone this moment after searching your rooms.”

Razumov gazed down at her with silent, scrutinizing attention. Her puffy yellow countenance was working with emotion. She screwed up her eyes at him entreatingly.

“Such a sensible young man! Anybody can see you are sensible. And now — like this — all at once.... What is the good of mixing yourself up with these Nihilists? Do give over, little father. They are unlucky people.”

Razumov moved his shoulders slightly.

“Or is it that some secret enemy has been calumniating you, Kirylo Sidorovitch? The world is full of black hearts and false denunciations nowadays. There is much fear about.”

“Have you heard that I have been denounced by some one?” asked Razumov, without taking his eyes off her quivering face.

But she had not heard anything. She had tried to find out by asking the police captain while his men were turning the room upside down. The police captain of the district had known her for the last eleven years and was a humane person. But he said to her on the landing, looking very black and vexed —

“My good woman, do not ask questions. I don’t know anything myself. The order comes from higher quarters.”

And indeed there had appeared, shortly after the arrival of the policemen of the district, a very superior gentleman in a fur coat and a shiny hat, who sat down in the room and looked through all the papers himself. He came alone and went away by himself, taking nothing with him. She had been trying to put things straight a little since they left.

Razumov turned away brusquely and entered his rooms.

All his books had been shaken and thrown on the floor. His landlady followed him, and stooping painfully began to pick them up into her apron. His papers and notes which were kept always neatly sorted (they all related to his studies) had been shuffled up and heaped together into a ragged pile in the middle of the table.

This disorder affected him profoundly, unreasonably. He sat down and stared. He had a distinct sensation of his very existence being undermined in some mysterious manner, of his moral supports falling away from him one by one. He even experienced a slight physical giddiness and made a movement as if to reach for something to steady himself with.

The old woman, rising to her feet with a low groan, shot all the books she had collected in her apron on to the sofa and left the room muttering and sighing.

It was only then that he noticed that the sheet of paper which for one night had remained stabbed to the wall above his empty bed was lying on top of the pile.

When he had taken it down the day before he had folded it in four, absent-mindedly, before dropping it on the table. And now he saw it lying uppermost, spread out, smoothed out even and covering all the confused pile of pages, the record of his intellectual life for the last three years. It had not been flung there. It had been placed there — smoothed out, too! He guessed in that an intention of profound meaning — or perhaps some inexplicable mockery.

He sat staring at the piece of paper till his eyes began to smart. He did not attempt to put his papers in order, either that evening or the next day — which he spent at home in a state of peculiar irresolution. This irresolution bore upon the question whether he should continue to live — neither more nor less. But its nature was very far removed from the hesitation of a man contemplating suicide. The idea of laying violent hands upon his body did not occur to Razumov. The unrelated organism bearing that label, walking, breathing, wearing these clothes, was of no importance to anyone, unless maybe to the landlady. The true Razumov had his being in the willed, in the determined future — in that future menaced by the lawlessness of autocracy — for autocracy knows no law — and the lawlessness of revolution. The feeling that his moral personality was at the mercy of these lawless forces was so strong that he asked himself seriously if it were worth while to go on accomplishing the mental functions of that existence which seemed no longer his own.

“What is the good of exerting my intelligence, of pursuing the systematic development of my faculties and all my plans of work?” he asked himself. “I want to guide my conduct by reasonable convictions, but what security have I against something — some destructive horror — walking in upon me as I sit here?...”

Razumov looked apprehensively towards the door of the outer room as if expecting some shape of evil to turn the handle and appear before him silently.

“A common thief,” he said to himself, “finds more guarantees in the law he is breaking, and even a brute like Ziemianitch has his consolation.” Razumov envied the materialism of the thief and the passion of the incorrigible lover. The consequences of their actions were always clear and their lives remained their own.

But he slept as soundly that night as though he had been consoling himself in the manner of Ziemianitch. He dropped off suddenly, lay like a log, remembered no dream on waking. But it was as if his soul had gone out in the night to gather the flowers of wrathful wisdom. He got up in a mood of grim determination and as if with a new knowledge of his own nature. He looked mockingly on the heap of papers on his table; and left his room to attend the lectures, muttering to himself, “We shall see.”

He was in no humour to talk to anybody or hear himself questioned as to his absence from lectures the day before. But it was difficult to repulse rudely a very good comrade with a smooth pink face and fair hair, bearing the nickname amongst his fellow-students of “Madcap Kostia.” He was the idolized only son of a very wealthy and illiterate Government contractor, and attended the lectures only during the periodical fits of contrition following upon tearful paternal remonstrances. Noisily blundering like a retriever puppy, his elated voice and great gestures filled the bare academy corridors with the joy of thoughtless animal life, provoking indulgent smiles at a great distance. His usual discourses treated of trotting horses, wine-parties in expensive restaurants, and the merits of persons of easy virtue, with a disarming artlessness of outlook. He pounced upon Razumov about midday, somewhat less uproariously than his habit was, and led him aside.

“Just a moment, Kirylo Sidorovitch. A few words here in this quiet corner.”

He felt Razumov’s reluctance, and insinuated his hand under his arm caressingly.

“No — pray do. I don’t want to talk to you about any of my silly scrapes. What are my scrapes? Absolutely nothing. Mere childishness. The other night I flung a fellow out of a certain place where I was having a fairly good time. A tyrannical little beast of a quill-driver from the Treasury department. He was bullying the people of the house. I rebuked him. ‘You are not behaving humanely to God’s creatures that are a jolly sight more estimable than yourself,’ I said. I can’t bear to see any tyranny, Kirylo Sidorovitch. Upon my word I can’t. He didn’t take it in good part at all. ‘Who’s that impudent puppy?’ he begins to shout. I was in excellent form as it happened, and he went through the closed window very suddenly. He flew quite a long way into the yard. I raged like — like a — minotaur. The women clung to me and screamed, the fiddlers got under the table.... Such fun! My dad had to put his hand pretty deep into his pocket, I can tell you.” He chuckled.

“My dad is a very useful man. Jolly good thing it is for me, too. I do get into unholy scrapes.”

His elation fell. That was just it. What was his life? Insignificant; no good to anyone; a mere festivity. It would end some fine day in his getting his skull split with a champagne bottle in a drunken brawl. At such times, too, when men were sacrificing themselves to ideas. But he could never get any ideas into his head. His head wasn’t worth anything better than to be split by a champagne bottle.

Razumov, protesting that he had no time, made an attempt to get away. The other’s tone changed to confidential earnestness.

“For God’s sake, Kirylo, my dear soul, let me make some sort of sacrifice. It would not be a sacrifice really. I have my rich dad behind me. There’s positively no getting to the bottom of his pocket.”

And rejecting indignantly Razumov’s suggestion that this was drunken raving, he offered to lend him some money to escape abroad with. He could always get money from his dad. He had only to say that he had lost it at cards or something of that sort, and at the same time promise solemnly not to miss a single lecture for three months on end. That would fetch the old man; and he, Kostia, was quite equal to the sacrifice. Though he really did not see what was the good for him to attend the lectures. It was perfectly hopeless.

“Won’t you let me be of some use?” he pleaded to the silent Razumov, who with his eyes on the ground and utterly unable to penetrate the real drift of the other’s intention, felt a strange reluctance to clear up the point.

“What makes you think I want to go abroad?” he asked at last very quietly.

Kostia lowered his voice.

“You had the police in your rooms yesterday. There are three or four of us who have heard of that. Never mind how we know. It is sufficient that we do. So we have been consulting together.”

“Ah! You got to know that so soon,” muttered Razumov negligently.

“Yes. We did. And it struck us that a man like you...”

“What sort of a man do you take me to be?” Razumov interrupted him.

“A man of ideas — and a man of action too. But you are very deep, Kirylo. There’s no getting to the bottom of your mind. Not for fellows like me. But we all agreed that you must be preserved for our country. Of that we have no doubt whatever — I mean all of us who have heard Haldin speak of you on certain occasions. A man doesn’t get the police ransacking his rooms without there being some devilry hanging over his head.... And so if you think that it would be better for you to bolt at once....”

Razumov tore himself away and walked down the corridor, leaving the other motionless with his mouth open. But almost at once he returned and stood before the amazed Kostia, who shut his mouth slowly. Razumov looked him straight in the eyes, before saying with marked deliberation and separating his words —

“I thank — you — very — much.”

He went away again rapidly. Kostia, recovering from his surprise at these manoeuvres, ran up behind him pressingly.

“No! Wait! Listen. I really mean it. It would be like giving your compassion to a starving fellow. Do you hear, Kirylo? And any disguise you may think of, that too I could procure from a costumier, a Jew I know. Let a fool be made serviceable according to his folly. Perhaps also a false beard or something of that kind may be needed.

“Razumov turned at bay.

“There are no false beards needed in this business, Kostia — you good-hearted lunatic, you. What do you know of my ideas? My ideas may be poison to you.” The other began to shake his head in energetic protest.

“What have you got to do with ideas? Some of them would make an end of your dad’s money-bags. Leave off meddling with what you don’t understand. Go back to your trotting horses and your girls, and then you’ll be sure at least of doing no harm to anybody, and hardly any to yourself.”

The enthusiastic youth was overcome by this disdain.

“You’re sending me back to my pig’s trough, Kirylo. That settles it. I am an unlucky beast — and I shall die like a beast too. But mind — it’s your contempt that has done for me.”

Razumov went off with long strides. That this simple and grossly festive soul should have fallen too under the revolutionary curse affected him as an ominous symptom of the time. He reproached himself for feeling troubled. Personally he ought to have felt reassured. There was an obvious advantage in this conspiracy of mistaken judgment taking him for what he was not. But was it not strange?

Again he experienced that sensation of his conduct being taken out of his hands by Haldin’s revolutionary tyranny. His solitary and laborious existence had been destroyed — the only thing he could call his own on this earth. By what right? he asked himself furiously. In what name?

What infuriated him most was to feel that the “thinkers” of the University were evidently connecting him with Haldin — as a sort of confidant in the background apparently. A mysterious connexion! Ha ha! ...He had been made a personage without knowing anything about it. How that wretch Haldin must have talked about him! Yet it was likely that Haldin had said very little. The fellow’s casual utterances were caught up and treasured and pondered over by all these imbeciles. And was not all secret revolutionary action based upon folly, self-deception, and lies?

“Impossible to think of anything else,” muttered Razumov to himself. “I’ll become an idiot if this goes on. The scoundrels and the fools are murdering my intelligence.”

He lost all hope of saving his future, which depended on the free use of his intelligence.

He reached the doorway of his house in a state of mental discouragement which enabled him to receive with apparent indifference an official-looking envelope from the dirty hand of the dvornik.

“A gendarme brought it,” said the man. “He asked if you were at home. I told him ‘No, he’s not at home.’ So he left it. ‘Give it into his own hands,’ says he. Now you’ve got it — eh?”

He went back to his sweeping, and Razumov climbed his stairs, envelope in hand. Once in his room he did not hasten to open it. Of course this official missive was from the superior direction of the police. A suspect! A suspect!

He stared in dreary astonishment at the absurdity of his position. He thought with a sort of dry, unemotional melancholy; three years of good work gone, the course of forty more perhaps jeopardized — turned from hope to terror, because events started by human folly link themselves into a sequence which no sagacity can foresee and no courage can break through. Fatality enters your rooms while your landlady’s back is turned; you come home and find it in possession bearing a man’s name, clothed in flesh — wearing a brown cloth coat and long boots — lounging against the stove. It asks you, “Is the outer door closed?” — and you don’t know enough to take it by the throat and fling it downstairs. You don’t know. You welcome the crazy fate. “Sit down,” you say. And it is all over. You cannot shake it off any more. It will cling to you for ever. Neither halter nor bullet can give you back the freedom of your life and the sanity of your thought.... It was enough to dash one’s head against a wall.

Razumov looked slowly all round the walls as if to select a spot to dash his head against. Then he opened the letter. It directed the student Kirylo Sidorovitch Razumov to present himself without delay at the General Secretariat.

Razumov had a vision of General T — -’s goggle eyes waiting for him — the embodied power of autocracy, grotesque and terrible. He embodied the whole power of autocracy because he was its guardian. He was the incarnate suspicion, the incarnate anger, the incarnate ruthlessness of a political and social regime on its defence. He loathed rebellion by instinct. And Razumov reflected that the man was simply unable to understand a reasonable adherence to the doctrine of absolutism.

“What can he want with me precisely — I wonder?” he asked himself.

As if that mental question had evoked the familiar phantom, Haldin stood suddenly before him in the room with an extraordinary completeness of detail. Though the short winter day had passed already into the sinister twilight of a land buried in snow, Razumov saw plainly the narrow leather strap round the Tcherkess coat. The illusion of that hateful presence was so perfect that he half expected it to ask, “Is the outer door closed?” He looked at it with hatred and contempt. Souls do not take a shape of clothing. Moreover, Haldin could not be dead yet. Razumov stepped forward menacingly; the vision vanished — and turning short on his heel he walked out of his room with infinite disdain.

But after going down the first flight of stairs it occurred to him that perhaps the superior authorities of police meant to confront him with Haldin in the flesh. This thought struck him like a bullet, and had he not clung with both hands to the banister he would have rolled down to the next landing most likely. His legs were of no use for a considerable time.... But why? For what conceivable reason? To what end?

There could be no rational answer to these questions; but Razumov remembered the promise made by the General to Prince K — -. His action was to remain unknown.

He got down to the bottom of the stairs, lowering himself as it were from step to step, by the banister. Under the gate he regained much of his firmness of thought and limb. He went out into the street without staggering visibly. Every moment he felt steadier mentally. And yet he was saying to himself that General T — - was perfectly capable of shutting him up in the fortress for an indefinite time. His temperament fitted his remorseless task, and his omnipotence made him inaccessible to reasonable argument.

But when Razumov arrived at the Secretariat he discovered that he would have nothing to do with General T — -. It is evident from Mr. Razumov’s diary that this dreaded personality was to remain in the background. A civilian of superior rank received him in a private room after a period of waiting in outer offices where a lot of scribbling went on at many tables in a heated and stuffy atmosphere.

The clerk in uniform who conducted him said in the corridor —

“You are going before Gregor Matvieitch Mikulin.”

There was nothing formidable about the man bearing that name. His mild, expectant glance was turned on the door already when Razumov entered. At once, with the penholder he was holding in his hand, he pointed to a deep sofa between two windows. He followed Razumov with his eyes while that last crossed the room and sat down. The mild gaze rested on him, not curious, not inquisitive — certainly not suspicious — almost without expression. In its passionless persistence there was something resembling sympathy.

Razumov, who had prepared his will and his intelligence to encounter General T — - himself, was profoundly troubled. All the moral bracing up against the possible excesses of power and passion went for nothing before this sallow man, who wore a full unclipped beard. It was fair, thin, and very fine. The light fell in coppery gleams on the protuberances of a high, rugged forehead. And the aspect of the broad, soft physiognomy was so homely and rustic that the careful middle parting of the hair seemed a pretentious affectation.

The diary of Mr. Razumov testifies to some irritation on his part. I may remark here that the diary proper consisting of the more or less daily entries seems to have been begun on that very evening after Mr. Razumov had returned home.

Mr. Razumov, then, was irritated. His strung-up individuality had gone to pieces within him very suddenly.

“I must be very prudent with him,” he warned himself in the silence during which they sat gazing at each other. It lasted some little time, and was characterized (for silences have their character) by a sort of sadness imparted to it perhaps by the mild and thoughtful manner of the bearded official. Razumov learned later that he was the chief of a department in the General Secretariat, with a rank in the civil service equivalent to that of a colonel in the army.

Razumov’s mistrust became acute. The main point was, not to be drawn into saying too much. He had been called there for some reason. What reason? To be given to understand that he was a suspect — and also no doubt to be pumped. As to what precisely? There was nothing. Or perhaps Haldin had been telling lies.... Every alarming uncertainty beset Razumov. He could bear the silence no longer, and cursing himself for his weakness spoke first, though he had promised himself not to do so on any account.

“I haven’t lost a moment’s time,” he began in a hoarse, provoking tone; and then the faculty of speech seemed to leave him and enter the body of Councillor Mikulin, who chimed in approvingly —

“Very proper. Very proper. Though as a matter of fact....”

But the spell was broken, and Razumov interrupted him boldly, under a sudden conviction that this was the safest attitude to take. With a great flow of words he complained of being totally misunderstood. Even as he talked with a perception of his own audacity he thought that the word “misunderstood” was better than the word “mistrusted,” and he repeated it again with insistence. Suddenly he ceased, being seized with fright before the attentive immobility of the official. “What am I talking about?” he thought, eyeing him with a vague gaze. Mistrusted — not misunderstood — was the right symbol for these people. Misunderstood was the other kind of curse. Both had been brought on his head by that fellow Haldin. And his head ached terribly. He passed his hand over his brow — an involuntary gesture of suffering, which he was too careless to restrain. At that moment Razumov beheld his own brain suffering on the rack — a long, pale figure drawn asunder horizontally with terrific force in the darkness of a vault, whose face he failed to see. It was as though he had dreamed for an infinitesimal fraction of time of some dark print of the Inquisition.

It is not to be seriously supposed that Razumov had actually dozed off and had dreamed in the presence of Councillor Mikulin, of an old print of the Inquisition. He was indeed extremely exhausted, and he records a remarkably dream-like experience of anguish at the circumstance that there was no one whatever near the pale and extended figure. The solitude of the racked victim was particularly horrible to behold. The mysterious impossibility to see the face, he also notes, inspired a sort of terror. All these characteristics of an ugly dream were present. Yet he is certain that he never lost the consciousness of himself on the sofa, leaning forward with his hands between his knees and turning his cap round and round in his fingers. But everything vanished at the voice of Councillor Mikulin. Razumov felt profoundly grateful for the even simplicity of its tone.

“Yes. I have listened with interest. I comprehend in a measure your... But, indeed, you are mistaken in what you....” Councillor Mikulin uttered a series of broken sentences. Instead of finishing them he glanced down his beard. It was a deliberate curtailment which somehow made the phrases more impressive. But he could talk fluently enough, as became apparent when changing his tone to persuasiveness he went on: “By listening to you as I did, I think I have proved that I do not regard our intercourse as strictly official. In fact, I don’t want it to have that character at all.... Oh yes! I admit that the request for your presence here had an official form. But I put it to you whether it was a form which would have been used to secure the attendance of a....”

“Suspect,” exclaimed Razumov, looking straight into the official’s eyes. They were big with heavy eyelids, and met his boldness with a dim, steadfast gaze. “A suspect.” The open repetition of that word which had been haunting all his waking hours gave Razumov a strange sort of satisfaction. Councillor Mikulin shook his head slightly. “Surely you do know that I’ve had my rooms searched by the police?”

“I was about to say a ‘misunderstood person,’ when you interrupted me,” insinuated quietly Councillor Mikulin.

Razumov smiled without bitterness. The renewed sense of his intellectual superiority sustained him in the hour of danger. He said a little disdainfully —

“I know I am but a reed. But I beg you to allow me the superiority of the thinking reed over the unthinking forces that are about to crush him out of existence. Practical thinking in the last instance is but criticism. I may perhaps be allowed to express my wonder at this action of the police being delayed for two full days during which, of course, I could have annihilated everything compromising by burning it — let us say — and getting rid of the very ashes, for that matter.”

“You are angry,” remarked the official, with an unutterable simplicity of tone and manner. “Is that reasonable?”

Razumov felt himself colouring with annoyance.

“I am reasonable. I am even — permit me to say — a thinker, though to be sure, this name nowadays seems to be the monopoly of hawkers of revolutionary wares, the slaves of some French or German thought — devil knows what foreign notions. But I am not an intellectual mongrel. I think like a Russian. I think faithfully — and I take the liberty to call myself a thinker. It is not a forbidden word, as far as I know.”

“No. Why should it be a forbidden word?” Councillor Mikulin turned in his seat with crossed legs and resting his elbow on the table propped his head on the knuckles of a half-closed hand. Razumov noticed a thick forefinger clasped by a massive gold band set with a blood-red stone — a signet ring that, looking as if it could weigh half a pound, was an appropriate ornament for that ponderous man with the accurate middle-parting of glossy hair above a rugged Socratic forehead.

“Could it be a wig?” Razumov detected himself wondering with an unexpected detachment. His self-confidence was much shaken. He resolved to chatter no more. Reserve! Reserve! All he had to do was to keep the Ziemianitch episode secret with absolute determination, when the questions came. Keep Ziemianitch strictly out of all the answers.

Councillor Mikulin looked at him dimly. Razumov’s self-confidence abandoned him completely. It seemed impossible to keep Ziemianitch out. Every question would lead to that, because, of course, there was nothing else. He made an effort to brace himself up. It was a failure. But Councillor Mikulin was surprisingly detached too.

“Why should it be forbidden?” he repeated. “I too consider myself a thinking man, I assure you. The principal condition is to think correctly. I admit it is difficult sometimes at first for a young man abandoned to himself — with his generous impulses undisciplined, so to speak — at the mercy of every wild wind that blows. Religious belief, of course, is a great....”

Councillor Mikulin glanced down his beard, and Razumov, whose tension was relaxed by that unexpected and discursive turn, murmured with gloomy discontent —

“That man, Haldin, believed in God.”

“Ah! You are aware,” breathed out Councillor Mikulin, making the point softly, as if with discretion, but making it nevertheless plainly enough, as if he too were put off his guard by Razumov’s remark. The young man preserved an impassive, moody countenance, though he reproached himself bitterly for a pernicious fool, to have given thus an utterly false impression of intimacy. He kept his eyes on the floor. “I must positively hold my tongue unless I am obliged to speak,” he admonished himself. And at once against his will the question, “Hadn’t I better tell him everything?” presented itself with such force that he had to bite his lower lip. Councillor Mikulin could not, however, have nourished any hope of confession. He went on —

“You tell me more than his judges were able to get out of him. He was judged by a commission of three. He would tell them absolutely nothing. I have the report of the interrogatories here, by me. After every question there stands ‘Refuses to answer — refuses to answer.’ It’s like that page after page. You see, I have been entrusted with some further investigations around and about this affair. He has left me nothing to begin my investigations on. A hardened miscreant. And so, you say, he believed in....”

Again Councillor Mikulin glanced down his beard with a faint grimace; but he did not pause for long. Remarking with a shade of scorn that blasphemers also had that sort of belief, he concluded by supposing that Mr. Razumov had conversed frequently with Haldin on the subject.

“No,” said Razumov loudly, without looking up. “He talked and I listened. That is not a conversation.”

“Listening is a great art,” observed Mikulin parenthetically.

“And getting people to talk is another,” mumbled Razumov.

“Well, no — that is not very difficult,” Mikulin said innocently, “except, of course, in special cases. For instance, this Haldin. Nothing could induce him to talk. He was brought four times before the delegated judges. Four secret interrogatories — and even during the last, when your personality was put forward....”

“My personality put forward?” repeated Razumov, raising his head brusquely. “I don’t understand.” Councillor Mikulin turned squarely to the table, and taking up some sheets of grey foolscap dropped them one after another, retaining only the last in his hand. He held it before his eyes while speaking.

“It was — you see — judged necessary. In a case of that gravity no means of action upon the culprit should be neglected. You understand that yourself, I am certain.

“Razumov stared with enormous wide eyes at the side view of Councillor Mikulin, who now was not looking at him at all.

“So it was decided (I was consulted by General T — -) that a certain question should be put to the accused. But in deference to the earnest wishes of Prince K — - your name has been kept out of the documents and even from the very knowledge of the judges themselves. Prince K — - recognized the propriety, the necessity of what we proposed to do, but he was concerned for your safety. Things do leak out — that we can’t deny. One cannot always answer for the discretion of inferior officials. There was, of course, the secretary of the special tribunal — one or two gendarmes in the room. Moreover, as I have said, in deference to Prince K — - even the judges themselves were to be left in ignorance. The question ready framed was sent to them by General T — - (I wrote it out with my own hand) with instructions to put it to the prisoner the very last of all. Here it is.

“Councillor Mikulin threw back his head into proper focus and went on reading monotonously: ‘Question — Has the man well known to you, in whose rooms you remained for several hours on Monday and on whose information you have been arrested — has he had any previous knowledge of your intention to commit a political murder?...’ Prisoner refuses to reply.

“Question repeated. Prisoner preserves the same stubborn silence.

“The venerable Chaplain of the Fortress being then admitted and exhorting the prisoner to repentance, entreating him also to atone for his crime by an unreserved and full confession which should help to liberate from the sin of rebellion against the Divine laws and the sacred Majesty of the Ruler, our Christ-loving land — the prisoner opens his lips for the first time during this morning’s audience and in a loud, clear voice rejects the venerable Chaplain’s ministrations.

“At eleven o’clock the Court pronounces in summary form the death sentence.

“The execution is fixed for four o’clock in the afternoon, subject to further instructions from superior authorities.”

Councillor Mikulin dropped the page of foolscap, glanced down his beard, and turning to Razumov, added in an easy, explanatory tone —

“We saw no object in delaying the execution. The order to carry out the sentence was sent by telegraph at noon. I wrote out the telegram myself. He was hanged at four o’clock this afternoon.”

The definite information of Haldin’s death gave Razumov the feeling of general lassitude which follows a great exertion or a great excitement. He kept very still on the sofa, but a murmur escaped him —

“He had a belief in a future existence.”

Councillor Mikulin shrugged his shoulders slightly, and Razumov got up with an effort. There was nothing now to stay for in that room. Haldin had been hanged at four o’clock. There could be no doubt of that. He had, it seemed, entered upon his future existence, long boots, Astrakhan fur cap and all, down to the very leather strap round his waist. A flickering, vanishing sort of existence. It was not his soul, it was his mere phantom he had left behind on this earth — thought Razumov, smiling caustically to himself while he crossed the room, utterly forgetful of where he was and of Councillor Mikulin’s existence. The official could have set a lot of bells ringing all over the building without leaving his chair. He let Razumov go quite up to the door before he spoke.

“Come, Kirylo Sidorovitch — what are you doing?”

Razumov turned his head and looked at him in silence. He was not in the least disconcerted. Councillor Mikulin’s arms were stretched out on the table before him and his body leaned forward a little with an effort of his dim gaze.

“Was I actually going to clear out like this?” Razumov wondered at himself with an impassive countenance. And he was aware of this impassiveness concealing a lucid astonishment.

“Evidently I was going out if he had not spoken,” he thought. “What would he have done then? I must end this affair one way or another. I must make him show his hand.”

For a moment longer he reflected behind the mask as it were, then let go the door-handle and came back to the middle of the room.

“I’ll tell you what you think,” he said explosively, but not raising his voice. “You think that you are dealing with a secret accomplice of that unhappy man. No, I do not know that he was unhappy. He did not tell me. He was a wretch from my point of view, because to keep alive a false idea is a greater crime than to kill a man. I suppose you will not deny that? I hated him! Visionaries work everlasting evil on earth. Their Utopias inspire in the mass of mediocre minds a disgust of reality and a contempt for the secular logic of human development.”

Razumov shrugged his shoulders and stared. “What a tirade!” he thought. The silence and immobility of Councillor Mikulin impressed him. The bearded bureaucrat sat at his post, mysteriously self-possessed like an idol with dim, unreadable eyes. Razumov’s voice changed involuntarily.

“If you were to ask me where is the necessity of my hate for such as Haldin, I would answer you — there is nothing sentimental in it. I did not hate him because he had committed the crime of murder. Abhorrence is not hate. I hated him simply because I am sane. It is in that character that he outraged me. His death...”

Razumov felt his voice growing thick in his throat. The dimness of Councillor Mikulin’s eyes seemed to spread all over his face and made it indistinct to Razumov’s sight. He tried to disregard these phenomena.

“Indeed,” he pursued, pronouncing each word carefully, “what is his death to me? If he were lying here on the floor I could walk over his breast.... The fellow is a mere phantom....”

Razumov’s voice died out very much against his will. Mikulin behind the table did not allow himself the slightest movement. The silence lasted for some little time before Razumov could go on again.

“He went about talking of me. Those intellectual fellows sit in each other’s rooms and get drunk on foreign ideas in the same way young Guards’ officers treat each other with foreign wines. Merest debauchery. ...Upon my Word,” — Razumov, enraged by a sudden recollection of Ziemianitch, lowered his voice forcibly, — ”upon my word, we Russians are a drunken lot. Intoxication of some sort we must have: to get ourselves wild with sorrow or maudlin with resignation; to lie inert like a log or set fire to the house. What is a sober man to do, I should like to know? To cut oneself entirely from one’s kind is impossible. To live in a desert one must be a saint. But if a drunken man runs out of the grog-shop, falls on your neck and kisses you on both cheeks because something about your appearance has taken his fancy, what then — kindly tell me? You may break, perhaps, a cudgel on his back and yet not succeed in beating him off....”

Councillor Mikulin raised his hand and passed it down his face deliberately.

“That’s... of course,” he said in an undertone.

The quiet gravity of that gesture made Razumov pause. It was so unexpected, too. What did it mean? It had an alarming aloofness. Razumov remembered his intention of making him show his hand.

“I have said all this to Prince K — -,” he began with assumed indifference, but lost it on seeing Councillor Mikulin’s slow nod of assent. “You know it? You’ve heard.... Then why should I be called here to be told of Haldin’s execution? Did you want to confront me with his silence now that the man is dead? What is his silence to me! This is incomprehensible. You want in some way to shake my moral balance.”

“No. Not that,” murmured Councillor Mikulin, just audibly. “The service you have rendered is appreciated....”

“Is it?” interrupted Razumov ironically.

“...and your position too.” Councillor Mikulin did not raise his voice. “But only think! You fall into Prince K — -’s study as if from the sky with your startling information.... You are studying yet, Mr. Razumov, but we are serving already — don’t forget that.... And naturally some curiosity was bound to....”

Councillor Mikulin looked down his beard. Razumov’s lips trembled.

“An occurrence of that sort marks a man,” the homely murmur went on. “I admit I was curious to see you. General T — - thought it would be useful, too.... Don’t think I am incapable of understanding your sentiments. When I was young like you I studied....”

“Yes — you wished to see me,” said Razumov in a tone of profound distaste. “Naturally you have the right — I mean the power. It all amounts to the same thing. But it is perfectly useless, if you were to look at me and listen to me for a year. I begin to think there is something about me which people don’t seem able to make out. It’s unfortunate. I imagine, however, that Prince K — - understands. He seemed to.”

Councillor Mikulin moved slightly and spoke.

“Prince K — - is aware of everything that is being done, and I don’t mind informing you that he approved my intention of becoming personally acquainted with you.”

Razumov concealed an immense disappointment under the accents of railing surprise.

“So he is curious too!... Well — after all, Prince K — - knows me very little. It is really very unfortunate for me, but — it is not exactly my fault.”

Councillor Mikulin raised a hasty deprecatory hand and inclined his head slightly over his shoulder.

“Now, Mr. Razumov — is it necessary to take it in that way? Everybody I am sure can....”

He glanced rapidly down his beard, and when he looked up again there was for a moment an interested expression in his misty gaze. Razumov discouraged it with a cold, repellent smile.

“No. That’s of no importance to be sure — except that in respect of all this curiosity being aroused by a very simple matter.... What is to be done with it? It is unappeasable. I mean to say there is nothing to appease it with. I happen to have been born a Russian with patriotic instincts — whether inherited or not I am not in a position to say.”

Razumov spoke consciously with elaborate steadiness.

“Yes, patriotic instincts developed by a faculty of independent thinking — of detached thinking. In that respect I am more free than any social democratic revolution could make me. It is more than probable that I don’t think exactly as you are thinking. Indeed, how could it be? You would think most likely at this moment that I am elaborately lying to cover up the track of my repentance.”

Razumov stopped. His heart had grown too big for his breast. Councillor Mikulin did not flinch.

“Why so?” he said simply. “I assisted personally at the search of your rooms. I looked through all the papers myself. I have been greatly impressed by a sort of political confession of faith. A very remarkable document. Now may I ask for what purpose....”

“To deceive the police naturally,” said Razumov savagely.... “What is all this mockery? Of course you can send me straight from this room to Siberia. That would be intelligible. To what is intelligible I can submit. But I protest against this comedy of persecution. The whole affair is becoming too comical altogether for my taste. A comedy of errors, phantoms, and suspicions. It’s positively indecent....”

Councillor Mikulin turned an attentive ear. “Did you say phantoms?” he murmured.

“I could walk over dozens of them.” Razumov, with an impatient wave of his hand, went on headlong, “But, really, I must claim the right to be done once for all with that man. And in order to accomplish this I shall take the liberty....”

Razumov on his side of the table bowed slightly to the seated bureaucrat.

“... To retire — simply to retire,” he finished with great resolution.

He walked to the door, thinking, “Now he must show his hand. He must ring and have me arrested before I am out of the building, or he must let me go. And either way....”

An unhurried voice said —

“Kirylo Sidorovitch.” Razumov at the door turned his head.

“To retire,” he repeated.

“Where to?” asked Councillor Mikulin softly.

Part 2

Chapter 1

In the conduct of an invented story there are, no doubt, certain proprieties to be observed for the sake of clearness and effect. A man of imagination, however inexperienced in the art of narrative, has his instinct to guide him in the choice of his words, and in the development of the action. A grain of talent excuses many mistakes. But this is not a work of imagination; I have no talent; my excuse for this undertaking lies not in its art, but in its artlessness. Aware of my limitations and strong in the sincerity of my purpose, I would not try (were I able) to invent anything. I push my scruples so far that I would not even invent a transition.

Dropping then Mr. Razumov’s record at the point where Councillor Mikulin’s question “Where to?” comes in with the force of an insoluble problem, I shall simply say that I made the acquaintance of these ladies about six months before that time. By “these ladies” I mean, of course, the mother and the sister of the unfortunate Haldin.

By what arguments he had induced his mother to sell their little property and go abroad for an indefinite time, I cannot tell precisely. I have an idea that Mrs. Haldin, at her son’s wish, would have set fire to her house and emigrated to the moon without any sign of surprise or apprehension; and that Miss Haldin — Nathalie, caressingly Natalka — would have given her assent to the scheme.

Their proud devotion to that young man became clear to me in a very short time. Following his directions they went straight to Switzerland — to Zurich — where they remained the best part of a year. From Zurich, which they did not like, they came to Geneva. A friend of mine in Lausanne, a lecturer in history at the University (he had married a Russian lady, a distant connection of Mrs. Haldin’s), wrote to me suggesting I should call on these ladies. It was a very kindly meant business suggestion. Miss Haldin wished to go through a course of reading the best English authors with a competent teacher.

Mrs. Haldin received me very kindly. Her bad French, of which she was smilingly conscious, did away with the formality of the first interview. She was a tall woman in a black silk dress. A wide brow, regular features, and delicately cut lips, testified to her past beauty. She sat upright in an easy chair and in a rather weak, gentle voice told me that her Natalka simply thirsted after knowledge. Her thin hands were lying on her lap, her facial immobility had in it something monachal. “In Russia,” she went on, “all knowledge was tainted with falsehood. Not chemistry and all that, but education generally,” she explained. The Government corrupted the teaching for its own purposes. Both her children felt that. Her Natalka had obtained a diploma of a Superior School for Women and her son was a student at the St. Petersburg University. He had a brilliant intellect, a most noble unselfish nature, and he was the oracle of his comrades. Early next year, she hoped he would join them and they would then go to Italy together. In any other country but their own she would have been certain of a great future for a man with the extraordinary abilities and the lofty character of her son — but in Russia....

The young lady sitting by the window turned her head and said —

“Come, mother. Even with us things change with years.”

Her voice was deep, almost harsh, and yet caressing in its harshness. She had a dark complexion, with red lips and a full figure. She gave the impression of strong vitality. The old lady sighed.

“You are both young — you two. It is easy for you to hope. But I, too, am not hopeless. Indeed, how could I be with a son like this.”

I addressed Miss Haldin, asking her what authors she wished to read. She directed upon me her grey eyes shaded by black eyelashes, and I became aware, notwithstanding my years, how attractive physically her personality could be to a man capable of appreciating in a woman something else than the mere grace of femininity. Her glance was as direct and trustful as that of a young man yet unspoiled by the world’s wise lessons. And it was intrepid, but in this intrepidity there was nothing aggressive. A naive yet thoughtful assurance is a better definition. She had reflected already (in Russia the young begin to think early), but she had never known deception as yet because obviously she had never yet fallen under the sway of passion. She was — to look at her was enough — very capable of being roused by an idea or simply by a person. At least, so I judged with I believe an unbiassed mind; for clearly my person could not be the person — and as to my ideas!...

We became excellent friends in the course of our reading. It was very pleasant. Without fear of provoking a smile, I shall confess that I became very much attached to that young girl. At the end of four months I told her that now she could very well go on reading English by herself. It was time for the teacher to depart. My pupil looked unpleasantly surprised.

Mrs. Haldin, with her immobility of feature and kindly expression of the eyes, uttered from her armchair in her uncertain French, “Mais l’ami reviendra.” And so it was settled. I returned — not four times a week as before, but pretty frequently. In the autumn we made some short excursions together in company with other Russians. My friendship with these ladies gave me a standing in the Russian colony which otherwise I could not have had.

The day I saw in the papers the news of Mr. de P — -’s assassination — it was a Sunday — I met the two ladies in the street and walked with them for some distance. Mrs. Haldin wore a heavy grey cloak, I remember, over her black silk dress, and her fine eyes met mine with a very quiet expression.

“We have been to the late service,” she said. “Natalka came with me. Her girl-friends, the students here, of course don’t.... With us in Russia the church is so identified with oppression, that it seems almost necessary when one wishes to be free in this life, to give up all hope of a future existence. But I cannot give up praying for my son.”

She added with a sort of stony grimness, colouring slightly, and in French, “Ce n’est peut etre qu’une habitude.” (“It may be only habit.”)

Miss Haldin was carrying the prayer-book. She did not glance at her mother.

“You and Victor are both profound believers,” she said.

I communicated to them the news from their country which I had just read in a cafe. For a whole minute we walked together fairly briskly in silence. Then Mrs. Haldin murmured —

“There will be more trouble, more persecutions for this. They may be even closing the University. There is neither peace nor rest in Russia for one but in the grave.

“Yes. The way is hard,” came from the daughter, looking straight before her at the Chain of Jura covered with snow, like a white wall closing the end of the street. “But concord is not so very far off.”

“That is what my children think,” observed Mrs. Haldin to me.

I did not conceal my feeling that these were strange times to talk of concord. Nathalie Haldin surprised me by saying, as if she had thought very much on the subject, that the occidentals did not understand the situation. She was very calm and youthfully superior.

“You think it is a class conflict, or a conflict of interests, as social contests are with you in Europe. But it is not that at all. It is something quite different.”

“It is quite possible that I don’t understand,” I admitted.

That propensity of lifting every problem from the plane of the understandable by means of some sort of mystic expression, is very Russian. I knew her well enough to have discovered her scorn for all the practical forms of political liberty known to the western world. I suppose one must be a Russian to understand Russian simplicity, a terrible corroding simplicity in which mystic phrases clothe a naive and hopeless cynicism. I think sometimes that the psychological secret of the profound difference of that people consists in this, that they detest life, the irremediable life of the earth as it is, whereas we westerners cherish it with perhaps an equal exaggeration of its sentimental value. But this is a digression indeed....

I helped these ladies into the tramcar and they asked me to call in the afternoon. At least Mrs. Haldin asked me as she climbed up, and her Natalka smiled down at the dense westerner indulgently from the rear platform of the moving car. The light of the clear wintry forenoon was softened in her grey eyes.

Mr. Razumov’s record, like the open book of fate, revives for me the memory of that day as something startlingly pitiless in its freedom from all forebodings. Victor Haldin was still with the living, but with the living whose only contact with life is the expectation of death. He must have been already referring to the last of his earthly affections, the hours of that obstinate silence, which for him was to be prolonged into eternity. That afternoon the ladies entertained a good many of their compatriots — more than was usual for them to receive at one time; and the drawing-room on the ground floor of a large house on the Boulevard des Philosophes was very much crowded.

I outstayed everybody; and when I rose Miss Haldin stood up too. I took her hand and was moved to revert to that morning’s conversation in the street.

“Admitting that we occidentals do not understand the character of your...” I began.

It was as if she had been prepared for me by some mysterious fore-knowledge. She checked me gently —

“Their impulses — their...” she sought the proper expression and found it, but in French...”their mouvements d’ame.”

Her voice was not much above a whisper.

“Very well,” I said. “But still we are looking at a conflict. You say it is not a conflict of classes and not a conflict of interests. Suppose I admitted that. Are antagonistic ideas then to be reconciled more easily — can they be cemented with blood and violence into that concord which you proclaim to be so near?”

She looked at me searchingly with her clear grey eyes, without answering my reasonable question — my obvious, my unanswerable question.

“It is inconceivable,” I added, with something like annoyance.

“Everything is inconceivable,” she said. “The whole world is inconceivable to the strict logic of ideas. And yet the world exists to our senses, and we exist in it. There must be a necessity superior to our conceptions. It is a very miserable and a very false thing to belong to the majority. We Russians shall find some better form of national freedom than an artificial conflict of parties — which is wrong because it is a conflict and contemptible because it is artificial. It is left for us Russians to discover a better way.”

Mrs. Haldin had been looking out of the window. She turned upon me the almost lifeless beauty of her face, and the living benign glance of her big dark eyes.

“That’s what my children think,” she declared.

“I suppose,” I addressed Miss Haldin, “that you will be shocked if I tell you that I haven’t understood — I won’t say a single word; I’ve understood all the words.... But what can be this era of disembodied concord you are looking forward to. Life is a thing of form. It has its plastic shape and a definite intellectual aspect. The most idealistic conceptions of love and forbearance must be clothed in flesh as it were before they can be made understandable.”

I took my leave of Mrs. Haldin, whose beautiful lips never stirred. She smiled with her eyes only. Nathalie Haldin went with me as far as the door, very amiable.

“Mother imagines that I am the slavish echo of my brother Victor. It is not so. He understands me better than I can understand him. When he joins us and you come to know him you will see what an exceptional soul it is.” She paused. “He is not a strong man in the conventional sense, you know,” she added. “But his character is without a flaw.”

“I believe that it will not be difficult for me to make friends with your brother Victor.”

“Don’t expect to understand him quite,” she said, a little maliciously. “He is not at all — at all — western at bottom.”

And on this unnecessary warning I left the room with another bow in the doorway to Mrs. Haldin in her armchair by the window. The shadow of autocracy all unperceived by me had already fallen upon the Boulevard des Philosophes, in the free, independent and democratic city of Geneva, where there is a quarter called “La Petite Russie.” Whenever two Russians come together, the shadow of autocracy is with them, tinging their thoughts, their views, their most intimate feelings, their private life, their public utterances — haunting the secret of their silences.

What struck me next in the course of a week or so was the silence of these ladies. I used to meet them walking in the public garden near the University. They greeted me with their usual friendliness, but I could not help noticing their taciturnity. By that time it was generally known that the assassin of M. de P — - had been caught, judged, and executed. So much had been declared officially to the news agencies. But for the world at large he remained anonymous. The official secrecy had withheld his name from the public. I really cannot imagine for what reason.

One day I saw Miss Haldin walking alone in the main valley of the Bastions under the naked trees.

“Mother is not very well,” she explained.

As Mrs. Haldin had, it seemed, never had a day’s illness in her life, this indisposition was disquieting. It was nothing definite, too.

“I think she is fretting because we have not heard from my brother for rather a long time.”

“No news — good news,” I said cheerfully, and we began to walk slowly side by side.

“Not in Russia,” she breathed out so low that I only just caught the words. I looked at her with more attention.

“You too are anxious?”

She admitted after a moment of hesitation that she was.

“It is really such a long time since we heard....”

And before I could offer the usual banal suggestions she confided in me.

“Oh! But it is much worse than that. I wrote to a family we know in Petersburg. They had not seen him for more than a month. They thought he was already with us. They were even offended a little that he should have left Petersburg without calling on them. The husband of the lady went at once to his lodgings. Victor had left there and they did not know his address.”

I remember her catching her breath rather pitifully. Her brother had not been seen at lectures for a very long time either. He only turned up now and then at the University gate to ask the porter for his letters. And the gentleman friend was told that the student Haldin did not come to claim the last two letters for him. But the police came to inquire if the student Haldin ever received any correspondence at the University and took them away.

“My two last letters,” she said.

We faced each other. A few snow-flakes fluttered under the naked boughs. The sky was dark.

“What do you think could have happened?” I asked.

Her shoulders moved slightly.

“One can never tell — in Russia.”

I saw then the shadow of autocracy lying upon Russian lives in their submission or their revolt. I saw it touch her handsome open face nestled in a fur collar and darken her clear eyes that shone upon me brilliantly grey in the murky light of a beclouded, inclement afternoon.

“Let us move on,” she said. “It is cold standing — to-day.”

She shuddered a little and stamped her little feet. We moved briskly to the end of the alley and back to the great gates of the garden.

“Have you told your mother?” I ventured to ask.

“No. Not yet. I came out to walk off the impression of this letter.”

I heard a rustle of paper somewhere. It came from her muff. She had the letter with her in there.

“What is it that you are afraid of?” I asked.

To us Europeans of the West, all ideas of political plots and conspiracies seem childish, crude inventions for the theatre or a novel. I did not like to be more definite in my inquiry.

“For us — for my mother specially, what I am afraid of is incertitude. People do disappear. Yes, they do disappear. I leave you to imagine what it is — the cruelty of the dumb weeks — months — years! This friend of ours has abandoned his inquiries when he heard of the police getting hold of the letters. I suppose he was afraid of compromising himself. He has a wife and children — and why should he, after all.... Moreover, he is without influential connections and not rich. What could he do?... Yes, I am afraid of silence — for my poor mother. She won’t be able to bear it. For my brother I am afraid of...” she became almost indistinct, “of anything.”

We were now near the gate opposite the theatre. She raised her voice.

“But lost people do turn up even in Russia. Do you know what my last hope is? Perhaps the next thing we know, we shall see him walking into our rooms.”

I raised my hat and she passed out of the gardens, graceful and strong, after a slight movement of the head to me, her hands in the muff, crumpling the cruel Petersburg letter.

On returning home I opened the newspaper I receive from London, and glancing down the correspondence from Russia — not the telegrams but the correspondence — the first thing that caught my eye was the name of Haldin. Mr. de P — -’s death was no longer an actuality, but the enterprising correspondent was proud of having ferreted out some unofficial information about that fact of modern history. He had got hold of Haldin’s name, and had picked up the story of the midnight arrest in the street. But the sensation from a journalistic point of view was already well in the past. He did not allot to it more than twenty lines out of a full column. It was quite enough to give me a sleepless night. I perceived that it would have been a sort of treason to let Miss Haldin come without preparation upon that journalistic discovery which would infallibly be reproduced on the morrow by French and Swiss newspapers. I had a very bad time of it till the morning, wakeful with nervous worry and night-marish with the feeling of being mixed up with something theatrical and morbidly affected. The incongruity of such a complication in those two women’s lives was sensible to me all night in the form of absolute anguish. It seemed due to their refined simplicity that it should remain concealed from them for ever. Arriving at an unconscionably early hour at the door of their apartment, I felt as if I were about to commit an act of vandalism....

The middle-aged servant woman led me into the drawing-room where there was a duster on a chair and a broom leaning against the centre table. The motes danced in the sunshine; I regretted I had not written a letter instead of coming myself, and was thankful for the brightness of the day. Miss Haldin in a plain black dress came lightly out of her mother’s room with a fixed uncertain smile on her lips.

I pulled the paper out of my pocket. I did not imagine that a number of the Standard could have the effect of Medusa’s head. Her face went stony in a moment — her eyes — her limbs. The most terrible thing was that being stony she remained alive. One was conscious of her palpitating heart. I hope she forgave me the delay of my clumsy circumlocution. It was not very prolonged; she could not have kept so still from head to foot for more than a second or two; and then I heard her draw a breath. As if the shock had paralysed her moral resistance, and affected the firmness of her muscles, the contours of her face seemed to have given way. She was frightfully altered. She looked aged — ruined. But only for a moment. She said with decision —

“I am going to tell my mother at once.”

“Would that be safe in her state?” I objected.

“What can be worse than the state she has been in for the last month? We understand this in another way. The crime is not at his door. Don’t imagine I am defending him before you.”

She went to the bedroom door, then came back to ask me in a low murmur not to go till she returned. For twenty interminable minutes not a sound reached me. At last Miss Haldin came out and walked across the room with her quick light step. When she reached the armchair she dropped into it heavily as if completely exhausted.

Mrs. Haldin, she told me, had not shed a tear. She was sitting up in bed, and her immobility, her silence, were very alarming. At last she lay down gently and had motioned her daughter away.

“She will call me in presently,” added Miss Haldin. “I left a bell near the bed.”

I confess that my very real sympathy had no standpoint. The Western readers for whom this story is written will understand what I mean. It was, if I may say so, the want of experience. Death is a remorseless spoliator. The anguish of irreparable loss is familiar to us all. There is no life so lonely as to be safe against that experience. But the grief I had brought to these two ladies had gruesome associations. It had the associations of bombs and gallows — a lurid, Russian colouring which made the complexion of my sympathy uncertain.

I was grateful to Miss Haldin for not embarrassing me by an outward display of deep feeling. I admired her for that wonderful command over herself, even while I was a little frightened at it. It was the stillness of a great tension. What if it should suddenly snap? Even the door of Mrs. Haldin’s room, with the old mother alone in there, had a rather awful aspect.

Nathalie Haldin murmured sadly —

“I suppose you are wondering what my feelings are?”

Essentially that was true. It was that very wonder which unsettled my sympathy of a dense Occidental. I could get hold of nothing but of some commonplace phrases, those futile phrases that give the measure of our impotence before each other’s trials I mumbled something to the effect that, for the young, life held its hopes and compensations. It held duties too — but of that I was certain it was not necessary to remind her.

She had a handkerchief in her hands and pulled at it nervously.

“I am not likely to forget my mother,” she said. “We used to be three. Now we are two — two women. She’s not so very old. She may live quite a long time yet. What have we to look for in the future? For what hope and what consolation?”

“You must take a wider view,” I said resolutely, thinking that with this exceptional creature this was the right note to strike. She looked at me steadily for a moment, and then the tears she had been keeping down flowed unrestrained. She jumped up and stood in the window with her back to me.

I slipped away without attempting even to approach her. Next day I was told at the door that Mrs. Haldin was better. The middle-aged servant remarked that a lot of people — Russians — had called that day, but Miss Haldin bad not seen anybody. A fortnight later, when making my daily call, I was asked in and found Mrs. Haldin sitting in her usual place by the window.

At first one would have thought that nothing was changed. I saw across the room the familiar profile, a little sharper in outline and overspread by a uniform pallor as might have been expected in an invalid. But no disease could have accounted for the change in her black eyes, smiling no longer with gentle irony. She raised them as she gave me her hand. I observed the three weeks’ old number of the Standard folded with the correspondence from Russia uppermost, lying on a little table by the side of the armchair. Mrs. Haldin’s voice was startlingly weak and colourless. Her first words to me framed a question.

“Has there been anything more in papers?”

I released her long emaciated hand, shook my head negatively, and sat down.

“The English press is wonderful. Nothing can be kept secret from it, and all the world must hear. Only our Russian news is not always easy to understand. Not always easy.... But English mothers do not look for news like that....”

She laid her hand on the newspaper and took it away again. I said —

“We too have had tragic times in our history.”

“A long time ago. A very long time ago.”


“There are nations that have made their bargain with fate,” said Miss Haldin, who had approached us. “We need not envy them.”

“Why this scorn?” I asked gently. “It may be that our bargain was not a very lofty one. But the terms men and nations obtain from Fate are hallowed by the price.”

Mrs. Haldin turned her head away and looked out of the window for a time, with that new, sombre, extinct gaze of her sunken eyes which so completely made another woman of her.

“That Englishman, this correspondent,” she addressed me suddenly, “do you think it is possible that he knew my son?”

To this strange question I could only say that it was possible of course. She saw my surprise.

“If one knew what sort of man he was one could perhaps write to him,” she murmured.

“Mother thinks,” explained Miss Haldin, standing between us, with one hand resting on the back of my chair, “that my poor brother perhaps did not try to save himself.”

I looked up at Miss Haldin in sympathetic consternation, but Miss Haldin was looking down calmly at her mother. The latter said —

“We do not know the address of any of his friends. Indeed, we know nothing of his Petersburg comrades. He had a multitude of young friends, only he never spoke much of them. One could guess that they were his disciples and that they idolized him. But he was so modest. One would think that with so many devoted....”

She averted her head again and looked down the Boulevard des Philosophes, a singularly arid and dusty thoroughfare, where nothing could be seen at the moment but two dogs, a little girl in a pinafore hopping on one leg, and in the distance a workman wheeling a bicycle.

“Even amongst the Apostles of Christ there was found a Judas,” she whispered as if to herself, but with the evident intention to be heard by me.

The Russian visitors assembled in little knots, conversed amongst themselves meantime, in low murmurs, and with brief glances in our direction. It was a great contrast to the usual loud volubility of these gatherings. Miss Haldin followed me into the ante-room.

“People will come,” she said. “We cannot shut the door in their faces.”

While I was putting on my overcoat she began to talk to me of her mother. Poor Mrs. Haldin was fretting after more news. She wanted to go on hearing about her unfortunate son. She could not make up her mind to abandon him quietly to the dumb unknown. She would persist in pursuing him in there through the long days of motionless silence face to face with the empty Boulevard des Philosophes. She could not understand why he had not escaped — as so many other revolutionists and conspirators had managed to escape in other instances of that kind. It was really inconceivable that the means of secret revolutionary organisations should have failed so inexcusably to preserve her son. But in reality the inconceivable that staggered her mind was nothing but the cruel audacity of Death passing over her head to strike at that young and precious heart.

Miss Haldin mechanically, with an absorbed look, handed me my hat. I understood from her that the poor woman was possessed by the sombre and simple idea that her son must have perished because he did not want to be saved. It could not have been that he despaired of his country’s future. That was impossible. Was it possible that his mother and sister had not known how to merit his confidence; and that, after having done what he was compelled to do, his spirit became crushed by an intolerable doubt, his mind distracted by a sudden mistrust.

I was very much shocked by this piece of ingenuity.

“Our three lives were like that!” Miss Haldin twined the fingers of both her hands together in demonstration, then separated them slowly, looking straight into my face. “That’s what poor mother found to torment herself and me with, for all the years to come,” added the strange girl. At that moment her indefinable charm was revealed to me in the conjunction of passion and stoicism. I imagined what her life was likely to be by the side of Mrs. Haldin’s terrible immobility, inhabited by that fixed idea. But my concern was reduced to silence by my ignorance of her modes of feeling. Difference of nationality is a terrible obstacle for our complex Western natures. But Miss Haldin probably was too simple to suspect my embarrassment. She did not wait for me to say anything, but as if reading my thoughts on my face she went on courageously —

“At first poor mother went numb, as our peasants say; then she began to think and she will go on now thinking and thinking in that unfortunate strain. You see yourself how cruel that is....”

I never spoke with greater sincerity than when I agreed with her that it would be deplorable in the highest degree. She took an anxious breath.

“But all these strange details in the English paper,” she exclaimed suddenly. “What is the meaning of them? I suppose they are true? But is it not terrible that my poor brother should be caught wandering alone, as if in despair, about the streets at night....”

We stood so close to each other in the dark anteroom that I could see her biting her lower lip to suppress a dry sob. After a short pause she said —

“I suggested to mother that he may have been betrayed by some false friend or simply by some cowardly creature. It may be easier for her to believe that.”

I understood now the poor woman’s whispered allusion to Judas.

“It may be easier,” I admitted, admiring inwardly the directness and the subtlety of the girl’s outlook. She was dealing with life as it was made for her by the political conditions of her country. She faced cruel realities, not morbid imaginings of her own making. I could not defend myself from a certain feeling of respect when she added simply —

“Time they say can soften every sort of bitterness. But I cannot believe that it has any power over remorse. It is better that mother should think some person guilty of Victor’s death, than that she should connect it with a weakness of her son or a shortcoming of her own.”

“But you, yourself, don’t suppose that....” I began.

She compressed her lips and shook her head. She harboured no evil thoughts against any one, she declared — and perhaps nothing that happened was unnecessary. On these words, pronounced low and sounding mysterious in the half obscurity of the ante-room, we parted with an expressive and warm handshake. The grip of her strong, shapely hand had a seductive frankness, a sort of exquisite virility. I do not know why she should have felt so friendly to me. It may be that she thought I understood her much better than I was able to do. The most precise of her sayings seemed always to me to have enigmatical prolongations vanishing somewhere beyond my reach. I am reduced to suppose that she appreciated my attention and my silence. The attention she could see was quite sincere, so that the silence could not be suspected of coldness. It seemed to satisfy her. And it is to be noted that if she confided in me it was clearly not with the expectation of receiving advice, for which, indeed she never asked.

Chapter 2

Our daily relations were interrupted at this period for something like a fortnight. I had to absent myself unexpectedly from Geneva. On my return I lost no time in directing my steps up the Boulevard des Philosophes.

Through the open door of the drawing-room I was annoyed to hear a visitor holding forth steadily in an unctuous deep voice.

Mrs. Haldin’s armchair by the window stood empty. On the sofa, Nathalie Haldin raised her charming grey eyes in a glance of greeting accompanied by the merest hint of a welcoming smile. But she made no movement. With her strong white hands lying inverted in the lap of her mourning dress she faced a man who presented to me a robust back covered with black broadcloth, and well in keeping with the deep voice. He turned his head sharply over his shoulder, but only for a moment.

“Ah! your English friend. I know. I know. That’s nothing.”

He wore spectacles with smoked glasses, a tall silk hat stood on the floor by the side of his chair. Flourishing slightly a big soft hand he went on with his discourse, precipitating his delivery a little more.

“I have never changed the faith I held while wandering in the forests and bogs of Siberia. It sustained me then — it sustains me now. The great Powers of Europe are bound to disappear — and the cause of their collapse will be very simple. They will exhaust themselves struggling against their proletariat. In Russia it is different. In Russia we have no classes to combat each other, one holding the power of wealth, and the other mighty with the strength of numbers. We have only an unclean bureaucracy in the face of a people as great and as incorruptible as the ocean. No, we have no classes. But we have the Russian woman. The admirable Russian woman! I receive most remarkable letters signed by women. So elevated in tone, so courageous, breathing such a noble ardour of service! The greatest part of our hopes rests on women. I behold their thirst for knowledge. It is admirable. Look how they absorb, how they are making it their own. It is miraculous. But what is knowledge? ...I understand that you have not been studying anything especially — medicine for instance. No? That’s right. Had I been honoured by being asked to advise you on the use of your time when you arrived here I would have been strongly opposed to such a course. Knowledge in itself is mere dross.”

He had one of those bearded Russian faces without shape, a mere appearance of flesh and hair with not a single feature having any sort of character. His eyes being hidden by the dark glasses there was an utter absence of all expression. I knew him by sight. He was a Russian refugee of mark. All Geneva knew his burly black-coated figure. At one time all Europe was aware of the story of his life written by himself and translated into seven or more languages. In his youth he had led an idle, dissolute life. Then a society girl he was about to marry died suddenly and thereupon he abandoned the world of fashion, and began to conspire in a spirit of repentance, and, after that, his native autocracy took good care that the usual things should happen to him. He was imprisoned in fortresses, beaten within an inch of his life, and condemned to work in mines, with common criminals. The great success of his book, however, was the chain.

I do not remember now the details of the weight and length of the fetters riveted on his limbs by an “Administrative” order, but it was in the number of pounds and the thickness of links an appalling assertion of the divine right of autocracy. Appalling and futile too, because this big man managed to carry off that simple engine of government with him into the woods. The sensational clink of these fetters is heard all through the chapters describing his escape — a subject of wonder to two continents. He had begun by concealing himself successfully from his guard in a hole on a river bank. It was the end of the day; with infinite labour he managed to free one of his legs. Meantime night fell. He was going to begin on his other leg when he was overtaken by a terrible misfortune. He dropped his file.

All this is precise yet symbolic; and the file had its pathetic history. It was given to him unexpectedly one evening, by a quiet, pale-faced girl. The poor creature had come out to the mines to join one of his fellow convicts, a delicate young man, a mechanic and a social democrat, with broad cheekbones and large staring eyes. She had worked her way across half Russia and nearly the whole of Siberia to be near him, and, as it seems, with the hope of helping him to escape. But she arrived too late. Her lover had died only a week before.

Through that obscure episode, as he says, in the history of ideas in Russia, the file came into his hands, and inspired him with an ardent resolution to regain his liberty. When it slipped through his fingers it was as if it had gone straight into the earth. He could by no manner of means put his hand on it again in the dark. He groped systematically in the loose earth, in the mud, in the water; the night was passing meantime, the precious night on which he counted to get away into the forests, his only chance of escape. For a moment he was tempted by despair to give up; but recalling the quiet, sad face of the heroic girl, he felt profoundly ashamed of his weakness. She had selected him for the gift of liberty and he must show himself worthy of the favour conferred by her feminine, indomitable soul. It appeared to be a sacred trust. To fail would have been a sort of treason against the sacredness of self-sacrifice and womanly love.

There are in his book whole pages of self-analysis whence emerges like a white figure from a dark confused sea the conviction of woman’s spiritual superiority — his new faith confessed since in several volumes. His first tribute to it, the great act of his conversion, was his extraordinary existence in the endless forests of the Okhotsk Province, with the loose end of the chain wound about his waist. A strip torn off his convict shirt secured the end firmly. Other strips fastened it at intervals up his left leg to deaden the clanking and to prevent the slack links from getting hooked in the bushes. He became very fierce. He developed an unsuspected genius for the arts of a wild and hunted existence. He learned to creep into villages without betraying his presence by anything more than an occasional faint jingle. He broke into outhouses with an axe he managed to purloin in a wood-cutters’ camp. In the deserted tracts of country he lived on wild berries and hunted for honey. His clothing dropped off him gradually. His naked tawny figure glimpsed vaguely through the bushes with a cloud of mosquitoes and flies hovering about the shaggy head, spread tales of terror through whole districts. His temper grew savage as the days went by, and he was glad to discover that that there was so much of a brute in him. He had nothing else to put his trust in. For it was as though there had been two human beings indissolubly joined in that enterprise. The civilized man, the enthusiast of advanced humanitarian ideals thirsting for the triumph of spiritual love and political liberty; and the stealthy, primeval savage, pitilessly cunning in the preservation of his freedom from day to day, like a tracked wild beast.

The wild beast was making its way instinctively eastward to the Pacific coast, and the civilised humanitarian in fearful anxious dependence watched the proceedings with awe. Through all these weeks he could never make up his mind to appeal to human compassion. In the wary primeval savage this shyness might have been natural, but the other too, the civilized creature, the thinker, the escaping “political” had developed an absurd form of morbid pessimism, a form of temporary insanity, originating perhaps in the physical worry and discomfort of the chain. These links, he fancied, made him odious to the rest of mankind. It was a repugnant and suggestive load. Nobody could feel any pity at the disgusting sight of a man escaping with a broken chain. His imagination became affected by his fetters in a precise, matter-of-fact manner. It seemed to him impossible that people could resist the temptation of fastening the loose end to a staple in the wall while they went for the nearest police official. Crouching in holes or hidden in thickets, he had tried to read the faces of unsuspecting free settlers working in the clearings or passing along the paths within a foot or two of his eyes. His feeling was that no man on earth could be trusted with the temptation of the chain.

One day, however, he chanced to come upon a solitary woman. It was on an open slope of rough grass outside the forest. She sat on the bank of a narrow stream; she had a red handkerchief on her head and a small basket was lying on the ground near her hand. At a little distance could be seen a cluster of log cabins, with a water-mill over a dammed pool shaded by birch trees and looking bright as glass in the twilight. He approached her silently, his hatchet stuck in his iron belt, a thick cudgel in his hand; there were leaves and bits of twig in his tangled hair, in his matted beard; bunches of rags he had wound round the links fluttered from his waist. A faint clink of his fetters made the woman turn her head. Too terrified by this savage apparition to jump up or even to scream, she was yet too stout-hearted to faint.... Expecting nothing less than to be murdered on the spot she covered her eyes with her hands to avoid the sight of the descending axe. When at last she found courage to look again, she saw the shaggy wild man sitting on the bank six feet away from her. His thin, sinewy arms hugged his naked legs; the long beard covered the knees on which he rested his chin; all these clasped, folded limbs, the bare shoulders, the wild head with red staring eyes, shook and trembled violently while the bestial creature was making efforts to speak. It was six weeks since he had heard the sound of his own voice. It seemed as though he had lost the faculty of speech. He had become a dumb and despairing brute, till the woman’s sudden, unexpected cry of profound pity, the insight of her feminine compassion discovering the complex misery of the man under the terrifying aspect of the monster, restored him to the ranks of humanity. This point of view is presented in his book, with a very effective eloquence. She ended, he says, by shedding tears over him, sacred, redeeming tears, while he also wept with joy in the manner of a converted sinner. Directing him to hide in the bushes and wait patiently (a police patrol was expected in the Settlement) she went away towards the houses, promising to return at night.

As if providentially appointed to be the newly wedded wife of the village blacksmith, the woman persuaded her husband to come out with her, bringing some tools of his trade, a hammer, a chisel, a small anvil.... “My fetters” — the book says — ”were struck off on the banks of the stream, in the starlight of a calm night by an athletic, taciturn young man of the people, kneeling at my feet, while the woman like a liberating genius stood by with clasped hands.” Obviously a symbolic couple. At the same time they furnished his regained humanity with some decent clothing, and put heart into the new man by the information that the seacoast of the Pacific was only a very few miles away. It could be seen, in fact, from the top of the next ridge....

The rest of his escape does not lend itself to mystic treatment and symbolic interpretation. He ended by finding his way to the West by the Suez Canal route in the usual manner. Reaching the shores of South Europe he sat down to write his autobiography — the great literary success of its year. This book was followed by other books written with the declared purpose of elevating humanity. In these works he preached generally the cult of the woman. For his own part he practised it under the rites of special devotion to the transcendental merits of a certain Madame de S — , a lady of advanced views, no longer very young, once upon a time the intriguing wife of a now dead and forgotten diplomat. Her loud pretensions to be one of the leaders of modern thought and of modern sentiment, she sheltered (like Voltaire and Mme. de Stael) on the republican territory of Geneva. Driving through the streets in her big landau she exhibited to the indifference of the natives and the stares of the tourists a long-waisted, youthful figure of hieratic stiffness, with a pair of big gleaming eyes, rolling restlessly behind a short veil of black lace, which, coming down no further than her vividly red lips, resembled a mask. Usually the “heroic fugitive” (this name was bestowed upon him in a review of the English edition of his book) — the “heroic fugitive” accompanied her, sitting, portentously bearded and darkly bespectacled, not by her side, but opposite her, with his back to the horses. Thus, facing each other, with no one else in the roomy carriage, their airings suggested a conscious public manifestation. Or it may have been unconscious. Russian simplicity often marches innocently on the edge of cynicism for some lofty purpose. But it is a vain enterprise for sophisticated Europe to try and understand these doings. Considering the air of gravity extending even to the physiognomy of the coachman and the action of the showy horses, this quaint display might have possessed a mystic significance, but to the corrupt frivolity of a Western mind, like my own, it seemed hardly decent.

However, it is not becoming for an obscure teacher of languages to criticize a “heroic fugitive” of worldwide celebrity. I was aware from hearsay that he was an industrious busy-body, hunting up his compatriots in hotels, in private lodgings, and — I was told — conferring upon them the honour of his notice in public gardens when a suitable opening presented itself. I was under the impression that after a visit or two, several months before, he had given up the ladies Haldin — no doubt reluctantly, for there could be no question of his being a determined person. It was perhaps to be expected that he should reappear again on this terrible occasion, as a Russian and a revolutionist, to say the right thing, to strike the true, perhaps a comforting, note. But I did not like to see him sitting there. I trust that an unbecoming jealousy of my privileged position had nothing to do with it. I made no claim to a special standing for my silent friendship. Removed by the difference of age and nationality as if into the sphere of another existence, I produced, even upon myself, the effect of a dumb helpless ghost, of an anxious immaterial thing that could only hover about without the power to protect or guide by as much as a whisper. Since Miss Haldin with her sure instinct had refrained from introducing me to the burly celebrity, I would have retired quietly and returned later on, had I not met a peculiar expression in her eyes which I interpreted as a request to stay, with the view, perhaps, of shortening an unwelcome visit.

He picked up his hat, but only to deposit it on his knees.

“We shall meet again, Natalia Victorovna. To-day I have called only to mark those feelings towards your honoured mother and yourself, the nature of which you cannot doubt. I needed no urging, but Eleanor — Madame de S — herself has in a way sent me. She extends to you the hand of feminine fellowship. There is positively in all the range of human sentiments no joy and no sorrow that woman cannot understand, elevate, and spiritualize by her interpretation. That young man newly arrived from St. Petersburg, I have mentioned to you, is already under the charm.”

At this point Miss Haldin got up abruptly. I was glad. He did not evidently expect anything so decisive and, at first, throwing his head back, he tilted up his dark glasses with bland curiosity. At last, recollecting himself, he stood up hastily, seizing his hat off his knees with great adroitness.

“How is it, Natalia Victorovna, that you have kept aloof so long, from what after all is — let disparaging tongues say what they like — a unique centre of intellectual freedom and of effort to shape a high conception of our future? In the case of your honoured mother I understand in a measure. At her age new ideas — new faces are not perhaps.... But you! Was it mistrust — or indifference? You must come out of your reserve. We Russians have no right to be reserved with each other. In our circumstances it is almost a crime against humanity. The luxury of private grief is not for us. Nowadays the devil is not combated by prayers and fasting. And what is fasting after all but starvation. You must not starve yourself, Natalia Victorovna. Strength is what we want. Spiritual strength, I mean. As to the other kind, what could withstand us Russians if we only put it forth? Sin is different in our day, and the way of salvation for pure souls is different too. It is no longer to be found in monasteries but in the world, in the...”

The deep sound seemed to rise from under the floor, and one felt steeped in it to the lips. Miss Haldin’s interruption resembled the effort of a drowning person to keep above water. She struck in with an accent of impatience —

“But, Peter Ivanovitch, I don’t mean to retire into a monastery. Who would look for salvation there?”

“I spoke figuratively,” he boomed.

“Well, then, I am speaking figuratively too. But sorrow is sorrow and pain is pain in the old way. They make their demands upon people. One has got to face them the best way one can. I know that the blow which has fallen upon us so unexpectedly is only an episode in the fate of a people. You may rest assured that I don’t forget that. But just now I have to think of my mother. How can you expect me to leave her to herself...?”

“That is putting it in a very crude way,” he protested in his great effortless voice.

Miss Haldin did not wait for the vibration to die out.

“And run about visiting amongst a lot of strange people. The idea is distasteful for me; and I do not know what else you may mean?”

He towered before her, enormous, deferential, cropped as close as a convict and this big pinkish poll evoked for me the vision of a wild head with matted locks peering through parted bushes, glimpses of naked, tawny limbs slinking behind the masses of sodden foliage under a cloud of flies and mosquitoes. It was an involuntary tribute to the vigour of his writing. Nobody could doubt that he had wandered in Siberian forests, naked and girt with a chain. The black broadcloth coat invested his person with a character of austere decency — something recalling a missionary.

“Do you know what I want, Natalia Victorovna?” he uttered solemnly. “I want you to be a fanatic.”

“A fanatic?”

“Yes. Faith alone won’t do.”

His voice dropped to a still lower tone. He raised for a moment one thick arm; the other remained hanging down against his thigh, with the fragile silk hat at the end.

“I shall tell you now something which I entreat you to ponder over carefully. Listen, we need a force that would move heaven and earth — nothing less.”

The profound, subterranean note of this “nothing less” made one shudder, almost, like the deep muttering of wind in the pipes of an organ.

“And are we to find that force in the salon of Madame de S — ? Excuse me, Peter Ivanovitch, if I permit myself to doubt it. Is not that lady a woman of the great world, an aristocrat?”

“Prejudice!” he cried. “You astonish me. And suppose she was all that! She is also a woman of flesh and blood. There is always something to weigh down the spiritual side in all of us. But to make of it a reproach is what I did not expect from you. No! I did not expect that. One would think you have listened to some malevolent scandal.”

“I have heard no gossip, I assure you. In our province how could we? But the world speaks of her. What can there be in common in a lady of that sort and an obscure country girl like me?”

“She is a perpetual manifestation of a noble and peerless spirit,” he broke in. “Her charm — no, I shall not speak of her charm. But, of course, everybody who approaches her falls under the spell.... Contradictions vanish, trouble falls away from one.... Unless I am mistaken — but I never make a mistake in spiritual matters — you are troubled in your soul, Natalia Victorovna.”

Miss Haldin’s clear eyes looked straight at his soft enormous face; I received the impression that behind these dark spectacles of his he could be as impudent as he chose.

“Only the other evening walking back to town from Chateau Borel with our latest interesting arrival from Petersburg, I could notice the powerful soothing influence — I may say reconciling influence.... There he was, all these kilometres along the shores of the lake, silent, like a man who has been shown the way of peace. I could feel the leaven working in his soul, you understand. For one thing he listened to me patiently. I myself was inspired that evening by the firm and exquisite genius of Eleanor — Madame de S — , you know. It was a full moon and I could observe his face. I cannot be deceived....”

Miss Haldin, looking down, seemed to hesitate.

“Well! I will think of what you said, Peter Ivanovitch. I shall try to call as soon as I can leave mother for an hour or two safely.”

Coldly as these words were said I was amazed at the concession. He snatched her right hand with such fervour that I thought he was going to press it to his lips or his breast. But he only held it by the finger-tips in his great paw and shook it a little up and down while he delivered his last volley of words.

“That’s right. That’s right. I haven’t obtained your full confidence as yet, Natalia Victorovna, but that will come. All in good time. The sister of Viktor Haldin cannot be without importance.... It’s simply impossible. And no woman can remain sitting on the steps. Flowers, tears, applause — that has had its time; it’s a mediaeval conception. The arena, the arena itself is the place for women!”

He relinquished her hand with a flourish, as if giving it to her for a gift, and remained still, his head bowed in dignified submission before her femininity.

“The arena!... You must descend into the arena, Natalia.”

He made one step backwards, inclined his enormous body, and was gone swiftly. The door fell to behind him. But immediately the powerful resonance of his voice was heard addressing in the ante-room the middle-aged servant woman who was letting him out. Whether he exhorted her too to descend into the arena I cannot tell. The thing sounded like a lecture, and the slight crash of the outer door cut it short suddenly.

Chapter 3

“We remained looking at each other for a time.”

“Do you know who he is?”

Miss Haldin, coming forward, put this question to me in English.

I took her offered hand.

“Everybody knows. He is a revolutionary feminist, a great writer, if you like, and — how shall I say it — the — the familiar guest of Madame de S — ’s mystic revolutionary salon.”

Miss Haldin passed her hand over her forehead.

“You know, he was with me for more than an hour before you came in. I was so glad mother was lying down. She has many nights without sleep, and then sometimes in the middle of the day she gets a rest of several hours. It is sheer exhaustion — but still, I am thankful.... If it were not for these intervals....”

She looked at me and, with that extraordinary penetration which used to disconcert me, shook her head.

“No. She would not go mad.”

“My dear young lady,” I cried, by way of protest, the more shocked because in my heart I was far from thinking Mrs. Haldin quite sane.

“You don’t know what a fine, lucid intellect mother had,” continued Nathalie Haldin, with her calm, clear-eyed simplicity, which seemed to me always to have a quality of heroism.

“I am sure....” I murmured.

“I darkened mother’s room and came out here. I’ve wanted for so long to think quietly.”

She paused, then, without giving any sign of distress, added, “It’s so difficult,” and looked at me with a strange fixity, as if watching for a sign of dissent or surprise.

I gave neither. I was irresistibly impelled to say —

“The visit from that gentleman has not made it any easier, I fear.”

Miss Haldin stood before me with a peculiar expression in her eyes.

“I don’t pretend to understand completely. Some guide one must have, even if one does not wholly give up the direction of one’s conduct to him. I am an inexperienced girl, but I am not slavish, There has been too much of that in Russia. Why should I not listen to him? There is no harm in having one’s thoughts directed. But I don’t mind confessing to you that I have not been completely candid with Peter Ivanovitch. I don’t quite know what prevented me at the moment....”

She walked away suddenly from me to a distant part of the room; but it was only to open and shut a drawer in a bureau. She returned with a piece of paper in her hand. It was thin and blackened with close handwriting. It was obviously a letter.

“I wanted to read you the very words,” she said. “This is one of my poor brother’s letters. He never doubted. How could he doubt? They make only such a small handful, these miserable oppressors, before the unanimous will of our people.”

“Your brother believed in the power of a people’s will to achieve anything?”

“It was his religion,” declared Miss Haldin.

I looked at her calm face and her animated eyes.

“Of course the will must be awakened, inspired, concentrated,” she went on. “That is the true task of real agitators. One has got to give up one’s life to it. The degradation of servitude, the absolutist lies must be uprooted and swept out. Reform is impossible. There is nothing to reform. There is no legality, there are no institutions. There are only arbitrary decrees. There is only a handful of cruel — perhaps blind — officials against a nation.”

The letter rustled slightly in her hand. I glanced down at the flimsy blackened pages whose very handwriting seemed cabalistic, incomprehensible to the experience of Western Europe.

“Stated like this,” I confessed, “the problem seems simple enough. But I fear I shall not see it solved. And if you go back to Russia I know that I shall not see you again. Yet once more I say: go back! Don’t suppose that I am thinking of your preservation. No! I know that you will not be returning to personal safety. But I had much rather think of you in danger there than see you exposed to what may be met here.”

“I tell you what,” said Miss Haldin, after a moment of reflection. “I believe that you hate revolution; you fancy it’s not quite honest. You belong to a people which has made a bargain with fate and wouldn’t like to be rude to it. But we have made no bargain. It was never offered to us — so much liberty for so much hard cash. You shrink from the idea of revolutionary action for those you think well of as if it were something — how shall I say it — not quite decent.”

I bowed my head.

“You are quite right,” I said. “I think very highly of you”

“Don’t suppose I do not know it,” she began hurriedly. “Your friendship has been very valuable.”

“I have done little else but look on.”

She was a little flushed under the eyes.

“There is a way of looking on which is valuable I have felt less lonely because of it. It’s difficult to explain.”

“Really? Well, I too have felt less lonely. That’s easy to explain, though. But it won’t go on much longer. The last thing I want to tell you is this: in a real revolution — not a simple dynastic change or a mere reform of institutions — in a real revolution the best characters do not come to the front. A violent revolution falls into the hands of narrow-minded fanatics and of tyrannical hypocrites at first. Afterwards comes the turn of all the pretentious intellectual failures of the time. Such are the chiefs and the leaders. You will notice that I have left out the mere rogues. The scrupulous and the just, the noble, humane, and devoted natures; the unselfish and the intelligent may begin a movement — but it passes away from them. They are not the leaders of a revolution. They are its victims: the victims of disgust, of disenchantment — often of remorse. Hopes grotesquely betrayed, ideals caricatured — that is the definition of revolutionary success. There have been in every revolution hearts broken by such successes. But enough of that. My meaning is that I don’t want you to be a victim.”

“If I could believe all you have said I still wouldn’t think of myself,” protested Miss Haldin. “I would take liberty from any hand as a hungry man would snatch at a piece of bread. The true progress must begin after. And for that the right men shall be found. They are already amongst us. One comes upon them in their obscurity, unknown, preparing themselves....”

She spread out the letter she had kept in her hand all the time, and looking down at it —

“Yes! One comes upon such men!” she repeated, and then read out the words, “Unstained, lofty, and solitary existences.”

Folding up the letter, while I looked at her interrogatively, she explained —

“These are the words which my brother applies to a young man he came to know in St. Petersburg. An intimate friend, I suppose. It must be. His is the only name my brother mentions in all his correspondence with me. Absolutely the only one, and — would you believe it? — the man is here. He arrived recently in Geneva.”

“Have you seen him?” I inquired. “But, of course; you must have seen him.”

“No! No! I haven’t! I didn’t know he was here. It’s Peter Ivanovitch himself who told me. You have heard him yourself mentioning a new arrival from Petersburg.... Well, that is the man of ‘unstained, lofty, and solitary existence.’ My brother’s friend!”

“Compromised politically, I suppose,” I remarked.

“I don’t know. Yes. It must be so. Who knows! Perhaps it was this very friendship with my brother which.... But no! It is scarcely possible. Really, I know nothing except what Peter Ivanovitch told me of him. He has brought a letter of introduction from Father Zosim — you know, the priest-democrat; you have heard of Father Zosim?”

“Oh yes. The famous Father Zosim was staying here in Geneva for some two months about a year ago,” I said. “When he left here he seems to have disappeared from the world.”

“It appears that he is at work in Russia again. Somewhere in the centre,” Miss Haldin said, with animation. “But please don’t mention that to any one — don’t let it slip from you, because if it got into the papers it would be dangerous for him.”

“You are anxious, of course, to meet that friend of your brother?” I asked.

Miss Haldin put the letter into her pocket. Her eyes looked beyond my shoulder at the door of her mother’s room.

“Not here,” she murmured. “Not for the first time, at least.”

After a moment of silence I said good-bye, but Miss Haldin followed me into the ante-room, closing the door behind us carefully.

“I suppose you guess where I mean to go tomorrow?”

“You have made up your mind to call on Madame de S — .”

“Yes. I am going to the Chateau Borel. I must.”

“What do you expect to hear there?” I asked, in a low voice.

I wondered if she were not deluding herself with some impossible hope. It was not that, however.

“Only think — such a friend. The only man mentioned in his letters. He would have something to give me, if nothing more than a few poor words. It may be something said and thought in those last days. Would you want me to turn my back on what is left of my poor brother — a friend?”

“Certainly not,” I said. “I quite understand your pious curiosity.”

“ — Unstained, lofty, and solitary existences,” she murmured to herself. “There are! There are! Well, let me question one of them about the loved dead.”

“How do you know, though, that you will meet him there? Is he staying in the Chateau as a guest — do you suppose?”

“I can’t really tell,” she confessed. “He brought a written introduction from Father Zosim — who, it seems, is a friend of Madame de S — too. She can’t be such a worthless woman after all.”

“There were all sorts of rumours afloat about Father Zosim himself,” I observed.

She shrugged her shoulders.

“Calumny is a weapon of our government too. It’s well known. Oh yes! It is a fact that Father Zosim had the protection of the Governor-General of a certain province. We talked on the subject with my brother two years ago, I remember. But his work was good. And now he is proscribed. What better proof can one require. But no matter what that priest was or is. All that cannot affect my brother’s friend. If I don’t meet him there I shall ask these people for his address. And, of course, mother must see him too, later on. There is no guessing what he may have to tell us. It would be a mercy if mamma could be soothed. You know what she imagines. Some explanation perhaps may be found, or — or even made up, perhaps. It would be no sin.”

“Certainly,” I said, “it would be no sin. It may be a mistake, though.”

“I want her only to recover some of her old spirit. While she is like this I cannot think of anything calmly.”

“Do you mean to invent some sort of pious fraud for your mother’s sake?” I asked.

“Why fraud? Such a friend is sure to know something of my brother in these last days. He could tell us.... There is something in the facts which will not let me rest. I am certain he meant to join us abroad — that he had some plans — some great patriotic action in view; not only for himself, but for both of us. I trusted in that. I looked forward to the time! Oh! with such hope and impatience. I could have helped. And now suddenly this appearance of recklessness — as if he had not cared....”

She remained silent for a time, then obstinately she concluded —

“I want to know....”

Thinking it over, later on, while I walked slowly away from the Boulevard des Philosophes, I asked myself critically, what precisely was it that she wanted to know? What I had heard of her history was enough to give me a clue. In the educational establishment for girls where Miss Haldin finished her studies she was looked upon rather unfavourably. She was suspected of holding independent views on matters settled by official teaching. Afterwards, when the two ladies returned to their country place, both mother and daughter, by speaking their minds openly on public events, had earned for themselves a reputation of liberalism. The three-horse trap of the district police-captain began to be seen frequently in their village. “I must keep an eye on the peasants” — so he explained his visits up at the house. “Two lonely ladies must be looked after a little.” He would inspect the walls as though he wanted to pierce them with his eyes, peer at the photographs, turn over the books in the drawing-room negligently, and after the usual refreshments, would depart. But the old priest of the village came one evening in the greatest distress and agitation, to confess that he — the priest — had been ordered to watch and ascertain in other ways too (such as using his spiritual power with the servants) all that was going on in the house, and especially in respect of the visitors these ladies received, who they were, the length of their stay, whether any of them were strangers to that part of the country, and so on. The poor, simple old man was in an agony of humiliation and terror. “I came to warn you. Be cautious in your conduct, for the love of God. I am burning with shame, but there is no getting out from under the net. I shall have to tell them what I see, because if I did not there is my deacon. He would make the worst of things to curry favour. And then my son-in-law, the husband of my Parasha, who is a writer in the Government Domain office; they would soon kick him out — and maybe send him away somewhere.” The old man lamented the necessities of the times — ”when people do not agree somehow” and wiped his eyes. He did not wish to spend the evening of his days with a shaven head in the penitent’s cell of some monastery — ”and subjected to all the severities of ecclesiastical discipline; for they would show no mercy to an old man,” he groaned. He became almost hysterical, and the two ladies, full of commiseration, soothed him the best they could before they let him go back to his cottage. But, as a matter of fact, they had very few visitors. The neighbours — some of them old friends — began to keep away; a few from timidity, others with marked disdain, being grand people that came only for the summer — Miss Haldin explained to me — aristocrats, reactionaries. It was a solitary existence for a young girl. Her relations with her mother were of the tenderest and most open kind; but Mrs. Haldin had seen the experiences of her own generation, its sufferings, its deceptions, its apostasies too. Her affection for her children was expressed by the suppression of all signs of anxiety. She maintained a heroic reserve. To Nathalie Haldin, her brother with his Petersburg existence, not enigmatical in the least (there could be no doubt of what he felt or thought) but conducted a little mysteriously, was the only visible representative of a proscribed liberty. All the significance of freedom, its indefinite promises, lived in their long discussions, which breathed the loftiest hope of action and faith in success. Then, suddenly, the action, the hopes, came to an end with the details ferreted out by the English journalist. The concrete fact, the fact of his death remained! but it remained obscure in its deeper causes. She felt herself abandoned without explanation. But she did not suspect him. What she wanted was to learn almost at any cost how she could remain faithful to his departed spirit.

Chapter 4

Several days elapsed before I met Nathalie Haldin again. I was crossing the place in front of the theatre when I made out her shapely figure in the very act of turning between the gate pillars of the unattractive public promenade of the Bastions. She walked away from me, but I knew we should meet as she returned down the main alley — unless, indeed, she were going home. In that case, I don’t think I should have called on her yet. My desire to keep her away from these people was as strong as ever, but I had no illusions as to my power. I was but a Westerner, and it was clear that Miss Haldin would not, could not listen to my wisdom; and as to my desire of listening to her voice, it were better, I thought, not to indulge overmuch in that pleasure. No, I should not have gone to the Boulevard des Philosophes; but when at about the middle of the principal alley I saw Miss Haldin coming towards me, I was too curious, and too honest, perhaps, to run away.

There was something of the spring harshness in the air. The blue sky was hard, but the young leaves clung like soft mist about the uninteresting range of trees; and the clear sun put little points of gold into the grey of Miss Haldin’s frank eyes, turned to me with a friendly greeting.

I inquired after the health of her mother.

She had a slight movement of the shoulders and a little sad sigh.

“But, you see, I did come out for a walk...for exercise, as you English say.”

I smiled approvingly, and she added an unexpected remark —

“It is a glorious day.”

Her voice, slightly harsh, but fascinating with its masculine and bird-like quality, had the accent of spontaneous conviction. I was glad of it. It was as though she had become aware of her youth — for there was but little of spring-like glory in the rectangular railed space of grass and trees, framed visibly by the orderly roof-slopes of that town, comely without grace, and hospitable without sympathy. In the very air through which she moved there was but little warmth; and the sky, the sky of a land without horizons, swept and washed clean by the April showers, extended a cold cruel blue, without elevation, narrowed suddenly by the ugly, dark wall of the Jura where, here and there, lingered yet a few miserable trails and patches of snow. All the glory of the season must have been within herself — and I was glad this feeling had come into her life, if only for a little time.

“I am pleased to hear you say these words.” She gave me a quick look. Quick, not stealthy. If there was one thing of which she was absolutely incapable, it was stealthiness, Her sincerity was expressed in the very rhythm of her walk. It was I who was looking at her covertly — if I may say so. I knew where she had been, but I did not know what she had seen and heard in that nest of aristocratic conspiracies. I use the word aristocratic, for want of a better term. The Chateau Borel, embowered in the trees and thickets of its neglected grounds, had its fame in our day, like the residence of that other dangerous and exiled woman, Madame de Stael, in the Napoleonic era. Only the Napoleonic despotism, the booted heir of the Revolution, which counted that intellectual woman for an enemy worthy to be watched, was something quite unlike the autocracy in mystic vestments, engendered by the slavery of a Tartar conquest. And Madame de S — was very far from resembling the gifted author of Corinne. She made a great noise about being persecuted. I don’t know if she were regarded in certain circles as dangerous. As to being watched, I imagine that the Chateau Borel could be subjected only to a most distant observation. It was in its exclusiveness an ideal abode for hatching superior plots — whether serious or futile. But all this did not interest me. I wanted to know the effect its extraordinary inhabitants and its special atmosphere had produced on a girl like Miss Haldin, so true, so honest, but so dangerously inexperienced! Her unconsciously lofty ignorance of the baser instincts of mankind left her disarmed before her own impulses. And there was also that friend of her brother, the significant new arrival from Russia.... I wondered whether she had managed to meet him.

We walked for some time, slowly and in silence.

“You know,” I attacked her suddenly, “if you don’t intend telling me anything, you must say so distinctly, and then, of course, it shall be final. But I won’t play at delicacy. I ask you point-blank for all the details.”

She smiled faintly at my threatening tone.

“You are as curious as a child.”

“No. I am only an anxious old man,” I replied earnestly.

She rested her glance on me as if to ascertain the degree of my anxiety or the number of my years. My physiognomy has never been expressive, I believe, and as to my years I am not ancient enough as yet to be strikingly decrepit. I have no long beard like the good hermit of a romantic ballad; my footsteps are not tottering, my aspect not that of a slow, venerable sage. Those picturesque advantages are not mine. I am old, alas, in a brisk, commonplace way. And it seemed to me as though there were some pity for me in Miss Haldin’s prolonged glance. She stepped out a little quicker.

“You ask for all the details. Let me see. I ought to remember them. It was novel enough for a — a village girl like me.”

After a moment of silence she began by saying that the Chateau Borel was almost as neglected inside as outside. It was nothing to wonder at, a Hamburg banker, I believe, retired from business, had it built to cheer his remaining days by the view of that lake whose precise, orderly, and well-to-do beauty must have been attractive to the unromantic imagination of a business man. But he died soon. His wife departed too (but only to Italy), and this house of moneyed ease, presumably unsaleable, had stood empty for several years. One went to it up a gravel drive, round a large, coarse grass-plot, with plenty of time to observe the degradation of its stuccoed front. Miss Haldin said that the impression was unpleasant. It grew more depressing as one came nearer.

She observed green stains of moss on the steps of the terrace. The front door stood wide open. There was no one about. She found herself in a wide, lofty, and absolutely empty hall, with a good many doors. These doors were all shut. A broad, bare stone staircase faced her, and the effect of the whole was of an untenanted house. She stood still, disconcerted by the solitude, but after a while she became aware of a voice speaking continuously somewhere.

“You were probably being observed all the time,” I suggested. “There must have been eyes.”

“I don’t see how that could be,” she retorted. “I haven’t seen even a bird in the grounds. I don’t remember hearing a single twitter in the trees. The whole place appeared utterly deserted except for the voice.”

She could not make out the language — Russian, French, or German. No one seemed to answer it. It was as though the voice had been left behind by the departed inhabitants to talk to the bare walls. It went on volubly, with a pause now and then. It was lonely and sad. The time seemed very long to Miss Haldin. An invincible repugnance prevented her from opening one of the doors in the hall. It was so hopeless. No one would come, the voice would never stop. She confessed to me that she had to resist an impulse to turn round and go away unseen, as she had come.

“Really? You had that impulse?” I cried, full of regret. “What a pity you did not obey it.”

She shook her head.

“What a strange memory it would have been for one. Those deserted grounds, that empty hall, that impersonal, voluble voice, and — nobody, nothing, not a soul.”

The memory would have been unique and harmless. But she was not a girl to run away from an intimidating impression of solitude and mystery. “No, I did not run away,” she said. “I stayed where I was — and I did see a soul. Such a strange soul.”

As she was gazing up the broad staircase, and had concluded that the voice came from somewhere above, a rustle of dress attracted her attention. She looked down and saw a woman crossing the hall, having issued apparently through one of the many doors. Her face was averted, so that at first she was not aware of Miss Haldin.

On turning her head and seeing a stranger, she appeared very much startled. From her slender figure Miss Haldin had taken her for a young girl; but if her face was almost childishly round, it was also sallow and wrinkled, with dark rings under the eyes. A thick crop of dusty brown hair was parted boyishly on the side with a lateral wave above the dry, furrowed forehead. After a moment of dumb blinking, she suddenly squatted down on the floor.

“What do you mean by squatted down?” I asked, astonished. “This is a very strange detail.”

Miss Haldin explained the reason. This person when first seen was carrying a small bowl in her hand. She had squatted down to put it on the floor for the benefit of a large cat, which appeared then from behind her skirts, and hid its head into the bowl greedily. She got up, and approaching Miss Haldin asked with nervous bluntness —

“What do you want? Who are you?”

Miss Haldin mentioned her name and also the name of Peter Ivanovitch. The girlish, elderly woman nodded and puckered her face into a momentary expression of sympathy. Her black silk blouse was old and even frayed in places; the black serge skirt was short and shabby. She continued to blink at close quarters, and her eyelashes and eyebrows seemed shabby too. Miss Haldin, speaking gently to her, as if to an unhappy and sensitive person, explained how it was that her visit could not be an altogether unexpected event to Madame de S — .

“Ah! Peter Ivanovitch brought you an invitation. How was I to know? A dame de compangnie is not consulted, as you may imagine.”

The shabby woman laughed a little. Her teeth, splendidly white and admirably even, looked absurdly out of place, like a string of pearls on the neck of a ragged tramp. “Peter Ivanovitch is the greatest genius of the century perhaps, but he is the most inconsiderate man living. So if you have an appointment with him you must not be surprised to hear that he is not here.”

Miss Haldin explained that she had no appointment with Peter Ivanovitch. She became interested at once in that bizarre person.

“Why should he put himself out for you or any one else? Oh! these geniuses. If you only knew! Yes! And their books — I mean, of course, the books that the world admires, the inspired books. But you have not been behind the scenes. Wait till you have to sit at a table for a half a day with a pen in your hand. He can walk up and down his rooms for hours and hours. I used to get so stiff and numb that I was afraid I would lose my balance and fall off the chair all at once.”

She kept her hands folded in front of her, and her eyes, fixed on Miss Haldin’s face, betrayed no animation whatever. Miss Haldin, gathering that the lady who called herself a dame de compangnie was proud of having acted as secretary to Peter Ivanovitch, made an amiable remark.

“You could not imagine a more trying experience,” declared the lady. “There is an Anglo-American journalist interviewing Madame de S — now, or I would take you up,” she continued in a changed tone and glancing towards the staircase. “I act as master of ceremonies.”

It appeared that Madame de S — could not bear Swiss servants about her person; and, indeed, servants would not stay for very long in the Chateau Borel. There were always difficulties. Miss Haldin had already noticed that the hall was like a dusty barn of marble and stucco with cobwebs in the corners and faint tracks of mud on the black and white tessellated floor.

“I look also after this animal,” continued the dame de compagnie, keeping her hands folded quietly in front of her; and she bent her worn gaze upon the cat. “I don’t mind a bit. Animals have their rights; though, strictly speaking, I see no reason why they should not suffer as well as human beings. Do you? But of course they never suffer so much. That is impossible. Only, in their case it is more pitiful because they cannot make a revolution. I used to be a Republican. I suppose you are a Republican?”

Miss Haldin confessed to me that she did not know what to say. But she nodded slightly, and asked in her turn —

“And are you no longer a Republican?”

“After taking down Peter Ivanovitch from dictation for two years, it is difficult for me to be anything. First of all, you have to sit perfectly motionless. The slightest movement you make puts to flight the ideas of Peter Ivanovitch. You hardly dare to breathe. And as to coughing — God forbid! Peter Ivanovitch changed the position of the table to the wall because at first I could not help raising my eyes to look out of the window, while waiting for him to go on with his dictation. That was not allowed. He said I stared so stupidly. I was likewise not permitted to look at him over my shoulder. Instantly Peter Ivanovitch stamped his foot, and would roar, ‘Look down on the paper!’ It seems my expression, my face, put him off. Well, I know that I am not beautiful, and that my expression is not hopeful either. He said that my air of unintelligent expectation irritated him. These are his own words.”

Miss Haldin was shocked, but admitted to me that she was not altogether surprised.

“Is it possible that Peter Ivanovitch could treat any woman so rudely?” she cried.

The dame de compagnie nodded several times with an air of discretion, then assured Miss Haldin that she did not mind in the least. The trying part of it was to have the secret of the composition laid bare before her; to see the great author of the revolutionary gospels grope for words as if he were in the dark as to what he meant to say.

“I am quite willing to be the blind instrument of higher ends. To give one’s life for the cause is nothing. But to have one’s illusions destroyed — that is really almost more than one can bear. I really don’t exaggerate,” she insisted. “It seemed to freeze my very beliefs in me — the more so that when we worked in winter Peter Ivanovitch, walking up and down the room, required no artificial heat to keep himself warm. Even when we move to the South of France there are bitterly cold days, especially when you have to sit still for six hours at a stretch. The walls of these villas on the Riviera are so flimsy. Peter Ivanovitch did not seem to be aware of anything. It is true that I kept down my shivers from fear of putting him out. I used to set my teeth till my jaws felt absolutely locked. In the moments when Peter Ivanovitch interrupted his dictation, and sometimes these intervals were very long — often twenty minutes, no less, while he walked to and fro behind my back muttering to himself — I felt I was dying by inches, I assure you. Perhaps if I had let my teeth rattle Peter Ivanovitch might have noticed my distress, but I don’t think it would have had any practical effect. She’s very miserly in such matters.”

The dame de compagnie glanced up the staircase. The big cat had finished the milk and was rubbing its whiskered cheek sinuously against her skirt. She dived to snatch it up from the floor.

“Miserliness is rather a quality than otherwise, you know,” she continued, holding the cat in her folded arms. “With us it is misers who can spare money for worthy objects — not the so-called generous natures. But pray don’t think I am a sybarite. My father was a clerk in the Ministry of Finances with no position at all. You may guess by this that our home was far from luxurious, though of course we did not actually suffer from cold. I ran away from my parents, you know, directly I began to think by myself. It is not very easy, such thinking. One has got to be put in the way of it, awakened to the truth. I am indebted for my salvation to an old apple-woman, who had her stall under the gateway of the house we lived in. She had a kind wrinkled face, and the most friendly voice imaginable. One day, casually, we began to talk about a child, a ragged little girl we had seen begging from men in the streets at dusk; and from one thing to another my eyes began to open gradually to the horrors from which innocent people are made to suffer in this world, only in order that governments might exist. After I once understood the crime of the upper classes, I could not go on living with my parents. Not a single charitable word was to be heard in our home from year’s end to year’s end; there was nothing but the talk of vile office intrigues, and of promotion and of salaries, and of courting the favour of the chiefs. The mere idea of marrying one day such another man as my father made me shudder. I don’t mean that there was anyone wanting to marry me. There was not the slightest prospect of anything of the kind. But was it not sin enough to live on a Government salary while half Russia was dying of hunger? The Ministry of Finances! What a grotesque horror it is! What does the starving, ignorant people want with a Ministry of Finances? I kissed my old folks on both cheeks, and went away from them to live in cellars, with the proletariat. I tried to make myself useful to the utterly hopeless. I suppose you understand what I mean? I mean the people who have nowhere to go and nothing to look forward to in this life. Do you understand how frightful that is — nothing to look forward to! Sometimes I think that it is only in Russia that there are such people and such a depth of misery can be reached. Well, I plunged into it, and — do you know — there isn’t much that one can do in there. No, indeed — at least as long as there are Ministries of Finances and such like grotesque horrors to stand in the way. I suppose I would have gone mad there just trying to fight the vermin, if it had not been for a man. It was my old friend and teacher, the poor saintly apple-woman, who discovered him for me, quite accidentally. She came to fetch me late one evening in her quiet way. I followed her where she would lead; that part of my life was in her hands altogether, and without her my spirit would have perished miserably. The man was a young workman, a lithographer by trade, and he had got into trouble in connexion with that affair of temperance tracts — you remember. There was a lot of people put in prison for that. The Ministry of Finances again! What would become of it if the poor folk ceased making beasts of themselves with drink? Upon my word, I would think that finances and all the rest of it are an invention of the devil; only that a belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness. Finances indeed!”

Hatred and contempt hissed in her utterance of the word “finances,” but at the very moment she gently stroked the cat reposing in her arms. She even raised them slightly, and inclining her head rubbed her cheek against the fur of the animal, which received this caress with the complete detachment so characteristic of its kind. Then looking at Miss Haldin she excused herself once more for not taking her upstairs to Madame S — The interview could not be interrupted. Presently the journalist would be seen coming down the stairs. The best thing was to remain in the hall; and besides, all these rooms (she glanced all round at the many doors), all these rooms on the ground floor were unfurnished.

“Positively there is no chair down here to offer you,” she continued. “But if you prefer your own thoughts to my chatter, I will sit down on the bottom step here and keep silent.”

Miss Haldin hastened to assure her that, on the contrary, she was very much interested in the story of the journeyman lithographer. He was a revolutionist, of course.

“A martyr, a simple man,” said the dame de compangnie, with a faint sigh, and gazing through the open front door dreamily. She turned her misty brown eyes on Miss Haldin.

“I lived with him for four months. It was like a nightmare.”

As Miss Haldin looked at her inquisitively she began to describe the emaciated face of the man, his fleshless limbs, his destitution. The room into which the apple-woman had led her was a tiny garret, a miserable den under the roof of a sordid house. The plaster fallen off the walls covered the floor, and when the door was opened a horrible tapestry of black cobwebs waved in the draught. He had been liberated a few days before — flung out of prison into the streets. And Miss Haldin seemed to see for the first time, a name and a face upon the body of that suffering people whose hard fate had been the subject of so many conversations, between her and her brother, in the garden of their country house.

He had been arrested with scores and scores of other people in that affair of the lithographed temperance tracts. Unluckily, having got hold of a great many suspected persons, the police thought they could extract from some of them other information relating to the revolutionist propaganda.

“They beat him so cruelly in the course of investigation,” went on the dame de compagnie, “that they injured him internally. When they had done with him he was doomed. He could do nothing for himself. I beheld him lying on a wooden bedstead without any bedding, with his head on a bundle of dirty rags, lent to him out of charity by an old rag-picker, who happened to live in the basement of the house. There he was, uncovered, burning with fever, and there was not even a jug in the room for the water to quench his thirst with. There was nothing whatever — just that bedstead and the bare floor.”

“Was there no one in all that great town amongst the liberals and revolutionaries, to extend a helping hand to a brother?” asked Miss Haldin indignantly.

“Yes. But you do not know the most terrible part of that man’s misery. Listen. It seems that they ill-used him so atrociously that, at last, his firmness gave way, and he did let out some information. Poor soul, the flesh is weak, you know. What it was he did not tell me. There was a crushed spirit in that mangled body. Nothing I found to say could make him whole. When they let him out, he crept into that hole, and bore his remorse stoically. He would not go near anyone he knew. I would have sought assistance for him, but, indeed, where could I have gone looking for it? Where was I to look for anyone who had anything to spare or any power to help? The people living round us were all starving and drunken. They were the victims of the Ministry of Finances. Don’t ask me how we lived. I couldn’t tell you. It was like a miracle of wretchedness. I had nothing to sell, and I assure you my clothes were in such a state that it was impossible for me to go out in the daytime. I was indecent. I had to wait till it was dark before I ventured into the streets to beg for a crust of bread, or whatever I could get, to keep him and me alive. Often I got nothing, and then I would crawl back and lie on the floor by the side of his couch. Oh yes, I can sleep quite soundly on bare boards. That is nothing, and I am only mentioning it to you so that you should not think I am a sybarite. It was infinitely less killing than the task of sitting for hours at a table in a cold study to take the books of Peter Ivanovitch from dictation. But you shall see yourself what that is like, so I needn’t say any more about it.”

“It is by no means certain that I will ever take Peter Ivanovitch from dictation,” said Miss Haldin.

“No!” cried the other incredulously. “Not certain? You mean to say that you have not made up your mind?”

When Miss Haldin assured her that there never had been any question of that between her and Peter Ivanovitch, the woman with the cat compressed her lips tightly for a moment.

“Oh, you will find yourself settled at the table before you know that you have made up your mind. Don’t make a mistake, it is disenchanting to hear Peter Ivanovitch dictate, but at the same time there is a fascination about it. He is a man of genius. Your face is certain not to irritate him; you may perhaps even help his inspiration, make it easier for him to deliver his message. As I look at you, I feel certain that you are the kind of woman who is not likely to check the flow of his inspiration.”

Miss Haldin thought it useless to protest against all these assumptions.

“But this man — this workman did he die under your care?” she said, after a short silence.

The dame de compagnie, listening up the stairs where now two voices were alternating with some animation, made no answer for a time. When the loud sounds of the discussion had sunk into an almost inaudible murmur, she turned to Miss Haldin.

“Yes, he died, but not, literally speaking, in my arms, as you might suppose. As a matter of fact, I was asleep when he breathed his last. So even now I cannot say I have seen anybody die. A few days before the end, some young men found us out in our extremity. They were revolutionists, as you might guess. He ought to have trusted in his political friends when he came out of prison. He had been liked and respected before, and nobody would have dreamed of reproaching him with his indiscretion before the police. Everybody knows how they go to work, and the strongest man has his moments of weakness before pain. Why, even hunger alone is enough to give one queer ideas as to what may be done. A doctor came, our lot was alleviated as far as physical comforts go, but otherwise he could not be consoled — poor man. I assure you, Miss Haldin, that he was very lovable, but I had not the strength to weep. I was nearly dead myself. But there were kind hearts to take care of me. A dress was found to clothe my nakedness. I tell you, I was not decent — and after a time the revolutionists placed me with a Jewish family going abroad, as governess. Of course I could teach the children, I finished the sixth class of the Lyceum; but the real object was, that I should carry some important papers across the frontier. I was entrusted with a packet which I carried next my heart. The gendarmes at the station did not suspect the governess of a Jewish family, busy looking after three children. I don’t suppose those Hebrews knew what I had on me, for I had been introduced to them in a very roundabout way by persons who did not belong to the revolutionary movement, and naturally I had been instructed to accept a very small salary. When we reached Germany I left that family and delivered my papers to a revolutionist in Stuttgart; after this I was employed in various ways. But you do not want to hear all that. I have never felt that I was very useful, but I live in hopes of seeing all the Ministries destroyed, finances and all. The greatest joy of my life has been to hear what your brother has done.”

She directed her round eyes again to the sunshine outside, while the cat reposed within her folded arms in lordly beatitude and sphinx-like meditation.

“Yes! I rejoiced,” she began again. “For me there is a heroic ring about the very name of Haldin. They must have been trembling with fear in their Ministries — all those men with fiendish hearts. Here I stand talking to you, and when I think of all the cruelties, oppressions, and injustices that are going on at this very moment, my head begins to swim. I have looked closely at what would seem inconceivable if one’s own eyes had not to be trusted. I have looked at things that made me hate myself for my helplessness. I hated my hands that had no power, my voice that could not be heard, my very mind that would not become unhinged. Ah! I have seen things. And you?”

Miss Haldin was moved. She shook her head slightly.

“No, I have seen nothing for myself as yet,” she murmured “We have always lived in the country. It was my brother’s wish.”

“It is a curious meeting — this — between you and me,” continued the other. “Do you believe in chance, Miss Haldin? How could I have expected to see you, his sister, with my own eyes? Do you know that when the news came the revolutionaries here were as much surprised as pleased, every bit? No one seemed to know anything about your brother. Peter Ivanovitch himself had not foreseen that such a blow was going to be struck. I suppose your brother was simply inspired. I myself think that such deeds should be done by inspiration. It is a great privilege to have the inspiration and the opportunity. Did he resemble you at all? Don’t you rejoice, Miss Haldin?”

“You must not expect too much from me,” said Miss Haldin, repressing an inclination to cry which came over her suddenly. She succeeded, then added calmly, “I am not a heroic person!”

“You think you couldn’t have done such a thing yourself perhaps?”

“I don’t know. I must not even ask myself till I have lived a little longer, seen more....”

The other moved her head appreciatively. The purring of the cat had a loud complacency in the empty hall. No sound of voices came from upstairs. Miss Haldin broke the silence.

“What is it precisely that you heard people say about my brother? You said that they were surprised. Yes, I supposed they were. Did it not seem strange to them that my brother should have failed to save himself after the most difficult part — that is, getting away from the spot — was over? Conspirators should understand these things well. There are reasons why I am very anxious to know how it is he failed to escape.”

The dame de compagnie had advanced to the open hall-door. She glanced rapidly over her shoulder at Miss Haldin, who remained within the hall.

“Failed to escape,” she repeated absently. “Didn’t he make the sacrifice of his life? Wasn’t he just simply inspired? Wasn’t it an act of abnegation? Aren’t you certain?”

“What I am certain of,” said Miss Haldin, “is that it was not an act of despair. Have you not heard some opinion expressed here upon his miserable capture?”

The dame de compagnie mused for a while in the doorway.

“Did I hear? Of course, everything is discussed here. Has not all the world been speaking about your brother? For my part, the mere mention of his achievement plunges me into an envious ecstasy. Why should a man certain of immortality think of his life at all?”

She kept her back turned to Miss Haldin. Upstairs from behind a great dingy white and gold door, visible behind the balustrade of the first floor landing, a deep voice began to drone formally, as if reading over notes or something of the sort. It paused frequently, and then ceased altogether.

“I don’t think I can stay any longer now,” said Miss Haldin. “I may return another day.”

She waited for the dame de compagnie to make room for her exit; but the woman appeared lost in the contemplation of sunshine and shadows, sharing between themselves the stillness of the deserted grounds. She concealed the view of the drive from Miss Haldin. Suddenly she said —

“It will not be necessary; here is Peter Ivanovitch himself coming up. But he is not alone. He is seldom alone now.”

Hearing that Peter Ivanovitch was approaching, Miss Haldin was not so pleased as she might have been expected to be. Somehow she had lost the desire to see either the heroic captive or Madame de S — , and the reason of that shrinking which came upon her at the very last minute is accounted for by the feeling that those two people had not been treating the woman with the cat kindly.

“Would you please let me pass?” said Miss Haldin at last, touching lightly the shoulder of the dame de compagnie.

But the other, pressing the cat to her breast, did not budge.

“I know who is with him,” she said, without even looking back.

More unaccountably than ever Miss Haldin felt a strong impulse to leave the house.

“Madame de S — may be engaged for some time yet, and what I have got to say to Peter Ivanovitch is just a simple question which I might put to him when I meet him in the grounds on my way down. I really think I must go. I have been some time here, and I am anxious to get back to my mother. Will you let me pass, please?”

The dame de compagnie turned her head at last.

“I never supposed that you really wanted to see Madame de S — ,” she said, with unexpected insight. “Not for a moment.” There was something confidential and mysterious in her tone. She passed through the door, with Miss Haldin following her, on to the terrace, and they descended side by side the moss-grown stone steps. There was no one to be seen on the part of the drive visible from the front of the house.

“They are hidden by the trees over there,” explained Miss Haldin’s new acquaintance, “but you shall see them directly. I don’t know who that young man is to whom Peter Ivanovitch has taken such a fancy. He must be one of us, or he would not be admitted here when the others come. You know what I mean by the others. But I must say that he is not at all mystically inclined. I don’t know that I have made him out yet. Naturally I am never for very long in the drawing-room. There is always something to do for me, though the establishment here is not so extensive as the villa on the Riviera. But still there are plenty of opportunities for me to make myself useful.”

To the left, passing by the ivy-grown end of the stables, appeared Peter Ivanovitch and his companion. They walked very slowly, conversing with some animation. They stopped for a moment, and Peter Ivanovitch was seen to gesticulate, while the young man listened motionless, with his arms hanging down and his head bowed a little. He was dressed in a dark brown suit and a black hat. The round eyes of the dame de compagnie remained fixed on the two figures, which had resumed their leisurely approach.

“An extremely polite young man,” she said. “You shall see what a bow he will make; and it won’t altogether be so exceptional either. He bows in the same way when he meets me alone in the hall.”

She moved on a few steps, with Miss Haldin by her side, and things happened just as she had foretold. The young man took off his hat, bowed and fell back, while Peter Ivanovitch advanced quicker, his black, thick arms extended heartily, and seized hold of both Miss Haldin’s hands, shook them, and peered at her through his dark glasses.

“That’s right, that’s right!” he exclaimed twice, approvingly. “And so you have been looked after by....” He frowned slightly at the dame de compagnie, who was still nursing the cat. “I conclude Eleanor — Madame de S — is engaged. I know she expected somebody to-day. So the newspaper man did turn up, eh? She is engaged?”

For all answer the dame de compagnie turned away her head.

“It is very unfortunate — very unfortunate indeed. I very much regret that you should have been....” He lowered suddenly his voice. “But what is it — surely you are not departing, Natalia Victorovna? You got bored waiting, didn’t you?”

“Not in the least,” Miss Haldin protested. “Only I have been here some time, and I am anxious to get back to my mother.”

“The time seemed long, eh? I am afraid our worthy friend here” (Peter Ivanovitch suddenly jerked his head sideways towards his right shoulder and jerked it up again), — ”our worthy friend here has not the art of shortening the moments of waiting. No, distinctly she has not the art; and in that respect good intentions alone count for nothing.”

The dame de compagnie dropped her arms, and the cat found itself suddenly on the ground. It remained quite still after alighting, one hind leg stretched backwards. Miss Haldin was extremely indignant on behalf of the lady companion.

“Believe me, Peter Ivanovitch, that the moments I have passed in the hall of this house have been not a little interesting, and very instructive too. They are memorable. I do not regret the waiting, but I see that the object of my call here can be attained without taking up Madame de S — ’s time.”

At this point I interrupted Miss Haldin. The above relation is founded on her narrative, which I have not so much dramatized as might be supposed. She had rendered, with extraordinary feeling and animation, the very accent almost of the disciple of the old apple-woman, the irreconcilable hater of Ministries, the voluntary servant of the poor. Miss Haldin’s true and delicate humanity had been extremely shocked by the uncongenial fate of her new acquaintance, that lady companion, secretary, whatever she was. For my own part, I was pleased to discover in it one more obstacle to intimacy with Madame de S — . I had a positive abhorrence for the painted, bedizened, dead-faced, glassy-eyed Egeria of Peter Ivanovitch. I do not know what was her attitude to the unseen, but I know that in the affairs of this world she was avaricious, greedy, and unscrupulous. It was within my knowledge that she had been worsted in a sordid and desperate quarrel about money matters with the family of her late husband, the diplomatist. Some very august personages indeed (whom in her fury she had insisted upon scandalously involving in her affairs) had incurred her animosity. I find it perfectly easy to believe that she had come to within an ace of being spirited away, for reasons of state, into some discreet maison de sante — a madhouse of sorts, to be plain. It appears, however, that certain high-placed personages opposed it for reasons which....

But it’s no use to go into details.

Wonder may be expressed at a man in the position of a teacher of languages knowing all this with such definiteness. A novelist says this and that of his personages, and if only he knows how to say it earnestly enough he may not be questioned upon the inventions of his brain in which his own belief is made sufficiently manifest by a telling phrase, a poetic image, the accent of emotion. Art is great! But I have no art, and not having invented Madame de S — , I feel bound to explain how I came to know so much about her.

My informant was the Russian wife of a friend of mine already mentioned, the professor of Lausanne University. It was from her that I learned the last fact of Madame de S — ’s history, with which I intend to trouble my readers. She told me, speaking positively, as a person who trusts her sources, of the cause of Madame de S — ’s flight from Russia, some years before. It was neither more nor less than this: that she became suspect to the police in connexion with the assassination of the Emperor Alexander. The ground of this suspicion was either some unguarded expressions that escaped her in public, or some talk overheard in her salon. Overheard, we must believe, by some guest, perhaps a friend, who hastened to play the informer, I suppose. At any rate, the overheard matter seemed to imply her foreknowledge of that event, and I think she was wise in not waiting for the investigation of such a charge. Some of my readers may remember a little book from her pen, published in Paris, a mystically bad-tempered, declamatory, and frightfully disconnected piece of writing, in which she all but admits the foreknowledge, more than hints at its supernatural origin, and plainly suggests in venomous innuendoes that the guilt of the act was not with the terrorists, but with a palace intrigue. When I observed to my friend, the professor’s wife, that the life of Madame de S — , with its unofficial diplomacy, its intrigues, lawsuits, favours, disgrace, expulsions, its atmosphere of scandal, occultism, and charlatanism, was more fit for the eighteenth century than for the conditions of our own time, she assented with a smile, but a moment after went on in a reflective tone: “Charlatanism? — yes, in a certain measure. Still, times are changed. There are forces now which were non-existent in the eighteenth century. I should not be surprised if she were more dangerous than an Englishman would be willing to believe. And what’s more, she is looked upon as really dangerous by certain people — chez nous.”

Chez nous in this connexion meant Russia in general, and the Russian political police in particular. The object of my digression from the straight course of Miss Haldin’s relation (in my own words) of her visit to the Chateau Borel, was to bring forward that statement of my friend, the professor’s wife. I wanted to bring it forward simply to make what I have to say presently of Mr. Razumov’s presence in Geneva, a little more credible — for this is a Russian story for Western ears, which, as I have observed already, are not attuned to certain tones of cynicism and cruelty, of moral negation, and even of moral distress already silenced at our end of Europe. And this I state as my excuse for having left Miss Haldin standing, one of the little group of two women and two men who had come together below the terrace of the Chateau Borel.

The knowledge which I have just stated was in my mind when, as I have said, I interrupted Miss Haldin. I interrupted her with the cry of profound satisfaction —

“So you never saw Madame de S — , after all?”

Miss Haldin shook her head. It was very satisfactory to me. She had not seen Madame de S — ! That was excellent, excellent! I welcomed the conviction that she would never know Madame de S — now. I could not explain the reason of the conviction but by the knowledge that Miss Haldin was standing face to face with her brother’s wonderful friend. I preferred him to Madame de S — as the companion and guide of that young girl, abandoned to her inexperience by the miserable end of her brother. But, at any rate, that life now ended had been sincere, and perhaps its thoughts might have been lofty, its moral sufferings profound, its last act a true sacrifice. It is not for us, the staid lovers calmed by the possession of a conquered liberty, to condemn without appeal the fierceness of thwarted desire.

I am not ashamed of the warmth of my regard for Miss Haldin. It was, it must be admitted, an unselfish sentiment, being its own reward. The late Victor Haldin — in the light of that sentiment — appeared to me not as a sinister conspirator, but as a pure enthusiast. I did not wish indeed to judge him, but the very fact that he did not escape, that fact which brought so much trouble to both his mother and his sister, spoke to me in his favour. Meantime, in my fear of seeing the girl surrender to the influence of the Chateau Borel revolutionary feminism, I was more than willing to put my trust in that friend of the late Victor Haldin. He was nothing but a name, you will say. Exactly! A name! And what’s more, the only name; the only name to be found in the correspondence between brother and sister. The young man had turned up; they had come face to face, and, fortunately, without the direct interference of Madame de S — . What will come of it? what will she tell me presently? I was asking myself.

It was only natural that my thought should turn to the young man, the bearer of the only name uttered in all the dream-talk of a future to be brought about by a revolution. And my thought took the shape of asking myself why this young man had not called upon these ladies. He had been in Geneva for some days before Miss Haldin heard of him first in my presence from Peter Ivanovitch. I regretted that last’s presence at their meeting. I would rather have had it happen somewhere out of his spectacled sight. But I supposed that, having both these young people there, he introduced them to each other.

I broke the silence by beginning a question on that point —

“I suppose Peter Ivanovitch....”

Miss Haldin gave vent to her indignation. Peter Ivanovitch directly he had got his answer from her had turned upon the dame de compagnie in a shameful manner.

“Turned upon her?” I wondered. “What about? For what reason?”

“It was unheard of; it was shameful,” Miss Haldin pursued, with angry eyes. “Il lui a fait une scene — like this, before strangers. And for what? You would never guess. For some eggs.... Oh!”

I was astonished. “Eggs, did you say?”

“For Madame de S — . That lady observes a special diet, or something of the sort. It seems she complained the day before to Peter Ivanovitch that the eggs were not rightly prepared. Peter Ivanovitch suddenly remembered this against the poor woman, and flew out at her. It was most astonishing. I stood as if rooted.”

“Do you mean to say that the great feminist allowed himself to be abusive to a woman?” I asked.

“Oh, not that! It was something you have no conception of. It was an odious performance. Imagine, he raised his hat to begin with. He made his voice soft and deprecatory. ‘Ah! you are not kind to us — you will not deign to remember....’ This sort of phrases, that sort of tone. The poor creature was terribly upset. Her eyes ran full of tears. She did not know where to look. I shouldn’t wonder if she would have preferred abuse, or even a blow.”

I did not remark that very possibly she was familiar with both on occasions when no one was by. Miss Haldin walked by my side, her head up in scornful and angry silence.

“Great men have their surprising peculiarities,” I observed inanely. “Exactly like men who are not great. But that sort of thing cannot be kept up for ever. How did the great feminist wind up this very characteristic episode?”

Miss Haldin, without turning her face my way, told me that the end was brought about by the appearance of the interviewer, who had been closeted with Madame de S — .

He came up rapidly, unnoticed, lifted his hat slightly, and paused to say in French: “The Baroness has asked me, in case I met a lady on my way out, to desire her to come in at once.”

After delivering this message, he hurried down the drive. The dame de compagnie flew towards the house, and Peter Ivanovitch followed her hastily, looking uneasy. In a moment Miss Haldin found herself alone with the young man, who undoubtedly must have been the new arrival from Russia. She wondered whether her brother’s friend had not already guessed who she was.

I am in a position to say that, as a matter of fact, he had guessed. It is clear to me that Peter Ivanovitch, for some reason or other, had refrained from alluding to these ladies’ presence in Geneva. But Razumov had guessed. The trustful girl! Every word uttered by Haldin lived in Razumov’s memory. They were like haunting shapes; they could not be exorcised. The most vivid amongst them was the mention of the sister. The girl had existed for him ever since. But he did not recognize her at once. Coming up with Peter Ivanovitch, he did observe her; their eyes had met, even. He had responded, as no one could help responding, to the harmonious charm of her whole person, its strength, its grace, its tranquil frankness — and then he had turned his gaze away. He said to himself that all this was not for him; the beauty of women and the friendship of men were not for him. He accepted that feeling with a purposeful sternness, and tried to pass on. It was only her outstretched hand which brought about the recognition. It stands recorded in the pages of his self-confession, that it nearly suffocated him physically with an emotional reaction of hate and dismay, as though her appearance had been a piece of accomplished treachery.

He faced about. The considerable elevation of the terrace concealed them from anyone lingering in the doorway of the house; and even from the upstairs windows they could not have been seen. Through the thickets run wild, and the trees of the gently sloping grounds, he had cold, placid glimpses of the lake. A moment of perfect privacy had been vouchsafed to them at this juncture. I wondered to myself what use they had made of that fortunate circumstance.

“Did you have time for more than a few words?” I asked.

That animation with which she had related to me the incidents of her visit to the Chateau Borel had left her completely. Strolling by my side, she looked straight before her; but I noticed a little colour on her cheek. She did not answer me.

After some little time I observed that they could not have hoped to remain forgotten for very long, unless the other two had discovered Madame de S — swooning with fatigue, perhaps, or in a state of morbid exaltation after the long interview. Either would require their devoted ministrations. I could depict to myself Peter Ivanovitch rushing busily out of the house again, bareheaded, perhaps, and on across the terrace with his swinging gait, the black skirts of the frock-coat floating clear of his stout light grey legs. I confess to having looked upon these young people as the quarry of the “heroic fugitive.” I had the notion that they would not be allowed to escape capture. But of that I said nothing to Miss Haldin, only as she still remained uncommunicative, I pressed her a little.

“Well — but you can tell me at least your impression.”

She turned her head to look at me, and turned away again.

“Impression?” she repeated slowly, almost dreamily; then in a quicker tone —

“He seems to be a man who has suffered more from his thoughts than from evil fortune.”

“From his thoughts, you say?”

“And that is natural enough in a Russian,” she took me up. “In a young Russian; so many of them are unfit for action, and yet unable to rest.”

“And you think he is that sort of man?”

“No, I do not judge him. How could I, so suddenly? You asked for my impression — I explain my impression. I — I — don’t know the world, nor yet the people in it; I have been too solitary — I am too young to trust my own opinions.”

“Trust your instinct,” I advised her. “Most women trust to that, and make no worse mistakes than men. In this case you have your brother’s letter to help you.”

She drew a deep breath like a light sigh. “Unstained, lofty, and solitary existences,” she quoted as if to herself. But I caught the wistful murmur distinctly.

“High praise,” I whispered to her.

“The highest possible.”

“So high that, like the award of happiness, it is more fit to come only at the end of a life. But still no common or altogether unworthy personality could have suggested such a confident exaggeration of praise and...”

“Ah!” She interrupted me ardently. “And if you had only known the heart from which that judgment has come!”

She ceased on that note, and for a space I reflected on the character of the words which I perceived very well must tip the scale of the girl’s feelings in that young man’s favour. They had not the sound of a casual utterance. Vague they were to my Western mind and to my Western sentiment, but I could not forget that, standing by Miss Haldin’s side, I was like a traveller in a strange country. It had also become clear to me that Miss Haldin was unwilling to enter into the details of the only material part of their visit to the Chateau Borel. But I was not hurt. Somehow I didn’t feel it to be a want of confidence. It was some other difficulty — a difficulty I could not resent. And it was without the slightest resentment that I said —

“Very well. But on that high ground, which I will not dispute, you, like anyone else in such circumstances, you must have made for yourself a representation of that exceptional friend, a mental image of him, and — please tell me — you were not disappointed?”

“What do you mean? His personal appearance?”

“I don’t mean precisely his good looks, or otherwise.”

We turned at the end of the alley and made a few steps without looking at each other.

“His appearance is not ordinary,” said Miss Haldin at last.

“No, I should have thought not — from the little you’ve said of your first impression. After all, one has to fall back on that word. Impression! What I mean is that something indescribable which is likely to mark a ‘not ordinary’ person.”

I perceived that she was not listening. There was no mistaking her expression; and once more I had the sense of being out of it — not because of my age, which at any rate could draw inferences — but altogether out of it, on another plane whence I could only watch her from afar. And so ceasing to speak I watched her stepping out by my side.

“No,” she exclaimed suddenly, “I could not have been disappointed with a man of such strong feeling.”

“Aha! Strong feeling,” I muttered, thinking to myself censoriously: like this, at once, all in a moment!

“What did you say?” inquired Miss Haldin innocently.

“Oh, nothing. I beg your pardon. Strong feeling. I am not surprised.”

“And you don’t know how abruptly I behaved to him!” she cried remorsefully.

I suppose I must have appeared surprised, for, looking at me with a still more heightened colour, she said she was ashamed to admit that she had not been sufficiently collected; she had failed to control her words and actions as the situation demanded. She lost the fortitude worthy of both the men, the dead and the living; the fortitude which should have been the note of the meeting of Victor Haldin’s sister with Victor Haldin’s only known friend. He was looking at her keenly, but said nothing, and she was — she confessed — painfully affected by his want of comprehension. All she could say was: “You are Mr. Razumov.” A slight frown passed over his forehead. After a short, watchful pause, he made a little bow of assent, and waited.

At the thought that she had before her the man so highly regarded by her brother, the man who had known his value, spoken to him, understood him, had listened to his confidences, perhaps had encouraged him — her lips trembled, her eyes ran full of tears; she put out her hand, made a step towards him impulsively, saying with an effort to restrain her emotion, “Can’t you guess who I am?” He did not take the proffered hand. He even recoiled a pace, and Miss Haldin imagined that he was unpleasantly affected. Miss Haldin excused him, directing her displeasure at herself. She had behaved unworthily, like an emotional French girl. A manifestation of that kind could not be welcomed by a man of stern, self-contained character.

He must have been stern indeed, or perhaps very timid with women, not to respond in a more human way to the advances of a girl like Nathalie Haldin — I thought to myself. Those lofty and solitary existences (I remembered the words suddenly) make a young man shy and an old man savage — often.

“Well,” I encouraged Miss Haldin to proceed.

She was still very dissatisfied with herself.

“I went from bad to worse,” she said, with an air of discouragement very foreign to her. “I did everything foolish except actually bursting into tears. I am thankful to say I did not do that. But I was unable to speak for quite a long time.”

She had stood before him, speechless, swallowing her sobs, and when she managed at last to utter something, it was only her brother’s name — ”Victor — Victor Haldin!” she gasped out, and again her voice failed her.

“Of course,” she commented to me, “this distressed him. He was quite overcome. I have told you my opinion that he is a man of deep feeling — it is impossible to doubt it. You should have seen his face. He positively reeled. He leaned against the wall of the terrace. Their friendship must have been the very brotherhood of souls! I was grateful to him for that emotion, which made me feel less ashamed of my own lack of self-control. Of course I had regained the power of speech at once, almost. All this lasted not more than a few seconds. ‘I am his sister,’ I said. ‘Maybe you have heard of me.’“

“And had he?” I interrupted.

“I don’t know. How could it have been otherwise? And yet.... But what does that matter? I stood there before him, near enough to be touched and surely not looking like an impostor. All I know is, that he put out both his hands then to me, I may say flung them out at me, with the greatest readiness and warmth, and that I seized and pressed them, feeling that I was finding again a little of what I thought was lost to me for ever, with the loss of my brother — some of that hope, inspiration, and support which I used to get from my dear dead....”

I understood quite well what she meant. We strolled on slowly. I refrained from looking at her. And it was as if answering my own thoughts that I murmured —

“No doubt it was a great friendship — as you say. And that young man ended by welcoming your name, so to speak, with both hands. After that, of course, you would understand each other. Yes, you would understand each other quickly.”

It was a moment before I heard her voice.

“Mr. Razumov seems to be a man of few words. A reserved man — even when he is strongly moved.”

Unable to forget — -or even to forgive — the bass-toned expansiveness of Peter Ivanovitch, the Archpatron of revolutionary parties, I said that I took this for a favourable trait of character. It was associated with sincerity — in my mind.

“And, besides, we had not much time,” she added.

“No, you would not have, of course.” My suspicion and even dread of the feminist and his Egeria was so ineradicable that I could not help asking with real anxiety, which I made smiling —

“But you escaped all right?”

She understood me, and smiled too, at my uneasiness.

“Oh yes! I escaped, if you like to call it that. I walked away quickly. There was no need to run. I am neither frightened nor yet fascinated, like that poor woman who received me so strangely.”

“And Mr. — Mr. Razumov...?”

“He remained there, of course. I suppose he went into the house after I left him. You remember that he came here strongly recommended to Peter Ivanovitch — possibly entrusted with important messages for him.”

“Ah yes! From that priest who...”

“Father Zosim — yes. Or from others, perhaps.”

“You left him, then. But have you seen him since, may I ask?”

For some time Miss Haldin made no answer to this very direct question, then —

“I have been expecting to see him here to-day,” she said quietly.

“You have! Do you meet, then, in this garden? In that case I had better leave you at once.”

“No, why leave me? And we don’t meet in this garden. I have not seen Mr. Razumov since that first time. Not once. But I have been expecting him....”

She paused. I wondered to myself why that young revolutionist should show so little alacrity.

“Before we parted I told Mr. Razumov that I walked here for an hour every day at this time. I could not explain to him then why I did not ask him to come and see us at once. Mother must be prepared for such a visit. And then, you see, I do not know myself what Mr. Razumov has to tell us. He, too, must be told first how it is with poor mother. All these thoughts flashed through my mind at once. So I told him hurriedly that there was a reason why I could not ask him to see us at home, but that I was in the habit of walking here.... This is a public place, but there are never many people about at this hour. I thought it would do very well. And it is so near our apartments. I don’t like to be very far away from mother. Our servant knows where I am in case I should be wanted suddenly.”

“Yes. It is very convenient from that point of view,” I agreed.

In fact, I thought the Bastions a very convenient place, since the girl did not think it prudent as yet to introduce that young man to her mother. It was here, then, I thought, looking round at that plot of ground of deplorable banality, that their acquaintance will begin and go on in the exchange of generous indignations and of extreme sentiments, too poignant, perhaps, for a non-Russian mind to conceive. I saw these two, escaped out of four score of millions of human beings ground between the upper and nether millstone, walking under these trees, their young heads close together. Yes, an excellent place to stroll and talk in. It even occurred to me, while we turned once more away from the wide iron gates, that when tired they would have plenty of accommodation to rest themselves. There was a quantity of tables and chairs displayed between the restaurant chalet and the bandstand, a whole raft of painted deals spread out under the trees. In the very middle of it I observed a solitary Swiss couple, whose fate was made secure from the cradle to the grave by the perfected mechanism of democratic institutions in a republic that could almost be held in the palm of ones hand. The man, colourlessly uncouth, was drinking beer out of a glittering glass; the woman, rustic and placid, leaning back in the rough chair, gazed idly around.

There is little logic to be expected on this earth, not only in the matter of thought, but also of sentiment. I was surprised to discover myself displeased with that unknown young man. A week had gone by since they met. Was he callous, or shy, or very stupid? I could not make it out.

“Do you think,” I asked Miss Haldin, after we had gone some distance up the great alley, “that Mr Razumov understood your intention?”

“Understood what I meant?” she wondered. “He was greatly moved. That I know! In my own agitation I could see it. But I spoke distinctly. He heard me; he seemed, indeed, to hang on my words...”

Unconsciously she had hastened her pace. Her utterance, too, became quicker.

I waited a little before I observed thoughtfully —

“And yet he allowed all these days to pass.”

“How can we tell what work he may have to do here? He is not an idler travelling for his pleasure. His time may not be his own — nor yet his thoughts, perhaps.”

She slowed her pace suddenly, and in a lowered voice added —

“Or his very life” — then paused and stood still “For all I know, he may have had to leave Geneva the very day he saw me.”

“Without telling you!” I exclaimed incredulously.

“I did not give him time. I left him quite abruptly. I behaved emotionally to the end. I am sorry for it. Even if I had given him the opportunity he would have been justified in taking me for a person not to be trusted. An emotional, tearful girl is not a person to confide in. But even if he has left Geneva for a time, I am confident that we shall meet again.”

“Ah! you are confident.... I dare say. But on what ground?”

“Because I’ve told him that I was in great need of some one, a fellow-countryman, a fellow-believer, to whom I could give my confidence in a certain matter.”

“I see. I don’t ask you what answer he made. I confess that this is good ground for your belief in Mr. Razumov’s appearance before long. But he has not turned up to-day?”

“No,” she said quietly, “not to-day;” and we stood for a time in silence, like people that have nothing more to say to each other and let their thoughts run widely asunder before their bodies go off their different ways. Miss Haldin glanced at the watch on her wrist and made a brusque movement. She had already overstayed her time, it seemed.

“I don’t like to be away from mother,” she murmured, shaking her head. “It is not that she is very ill now. But somehow when I am not with her I am more uneasy than ever.”

Mrs. Haldin had not made the slightest allusion to her son for the last week or more. She sat, as usual, in the arm-chair by the window, looking out silently on that hopeless stretch of the Boulevard des Philosophes. When she spoke, a few lifeless words, it was of indifferent, trivial things.

“For anyone who knows what the poor soul is thinking of, that sort of talk is more painful than her silence. But that is bad too; I can hardly endure it, and I dare not break it.”

Miss Haldin sighed, refastening a button of her glove which had come undone. I knew well enough what a hard time of it she must be having. The stress, its causes, its nature, would have undermined the health of an Occidental girl; but Russian natures have a singular power of resistance against the unfair strains of life. Straight and supple, with a short jacket open on her black dress, which made her figure appear more slender and her fresh but colourless face more pale, she compelled my wonder and admiration.

“I can’t stay a moment longer. You ought to come soon to see mother. You know she calls you ‘L’ami.’ It is an excellent name, and she really means it. And now au revoir; I must run.”

She glanced vaguely down the broad walk — the hand she put out to me eluded my grasp by an unexpected upward movement, and rested upon my shoulder. Her red lips were slightly parted, not in a smile, however, but expressing a sort of startled pleasure. She gazed towards the gates and said quickly, with a gasp —

“There! I knew it. Here he comes!”

I understood that she must mean Mr. Razumov. A young man was walking up the alley, without haste. His clothes were some dull shade of brown, and he carried a stick. When my eyes first fell on him, his head was hanging on his breast as if in deep thought. While I was looking at him he raised it sharply, and at once stopped. I am certain he did, but that pause was nothing more perceptible than a faltering check in his gait, instantaneously overcome. Then he continued his approach, looking at us steadily. Miss Haldin signed to me to remain, and advanced a step or two to meet him.

I turned my head away from that meeting, and did not look at them again till I heard Miss Haldin’s voice uttering his name in the way of introduction. Mr. Razumov was informed, in a warm, low tone, that, besides being a wonderful teacher, I was a great support “in our sorrow and distress.”

Of course I was described also as an Englishman. Miss Haldin spoke rapidly, faster than I have ever heard her speak, and that by contrast made the quietness of her eyes more expressive.

“I have given him my confidence,” she added, looking all the time at Mr. Razumov. That young man did, indeed, rest his gaze on Miss Haldin, but certainly did not look into her eyes which were so ready for him. Afterwards he glanced backwards and forwards at us both, while the faint commencement of a forced smile, followed by the suspicion of a frown, vanished one after another; I detected them, though neither could have been noticed by a person less intensely bent upon divining him than myself. I don’t know what Nathalie Haldin had observed, but my attention seized the very shades of these movements. The attempted smile was given up, the incipient frown was checked, and smoothed so that there should be no sign; but I imagined him exclaiming inwardly —

“Her confidence! To this elderly person — this foreigner!”

I imagined this because he looked foreign enough to me. I was upon the whole favourably impressed. He had an air of intelligence and even some distinction quite above the average of the students and other inhabitants of the Petite Russie. His features were more decided than in the generality of Russian faces; he had a line of the jaw, a clean-shaven, sallow cheek; his nose was a ridge, and not a mere protuberance. He wore the hat well down over his eyes, his dark hair curled low on the nape of his neck; in the ill-fitting brown clothes there were sturdy limbs; a slight stoop brought out a satisfactory breadth of shoulders. Upon the whole I was not disappointed. Studious — robust — shy.

Before Miss Haldin had ceased speaking I felt the grip of his hand on mine, a muscular, firm grip, but unexpectedly hot and dry. Not a word or even a mutter assisted this short and arid handshake.

I intended to leave them to themselves, but Miss Haldin touched me lightly on the forearm with a significant contact, conveying a distinct wish. Let him smile who likes, but I was only too ready to stay near Nathalie Haldin, and I am not ashamed to say that it was no smiling matter to me. I stayed, not as a youth would have stayed, uplifted, as it were poised in the air, but soberly, with my feet on the ground and my mind trying to penetrate her intention. She had turned to Razumov.

“Well. This is the place. Yes, it is here that I meant you to come. I have been walking every day.... Don’t excuse yourself — I understand. I am grateful to you for coming to-day, but all the same I cannot stay now. It is impossible. I must hurry off home. Yes, even with you standing before me, I must run off. I have been too long away.... You know how it is?”

These last words were addressed to me. I noticed that Mr. Razumov passed the tip of his tongue over his lips just as a parched, feverish man might do. He took her hand in its black glove, which closed on his, and held it — detained it quite visibly to me against a drawing-back movement.

“Thank you once more for — for understanding me,” she went on warmly. He interrupted her with a certain effect of roughness. I didn’t like him speaking to this frank creature so much from under the brim of his hat, as it were. And he produced a faint, rasping voice quite like a man with a parched throat.

“What is there to thank me for? Understand you?... How did I understand you?... You had better know that I understand nothing. I was aware that you wanted to see me in this garden. I could not come before. I was hindered. And even to-day, you see...late.”

She still held his hand.

“I can, at any rate, thank you for not dismissing me from your mind as a weak, emotional girl. No doubt I want sustaining. I am very ignorant. But I can be trusted. Indeed I can!”

“You are ignorant,” he repeated thoughtfully. He had raised his head, and was looking straight into her face now, while she held his hand. They stood like this for a long moment. She released his hand.

“Yes. You did come late. It was good of you to come on the chance of me having loitered beyond my time. I was talking with this good friend here. I was talking of you. Yes, Kirylo Sidorovitch, of you. He was with me when I first heard of your being here in Geneva. He can tell you what comfort it was to my bewildered spirit to hear that news. He knew I meant to seek you out. It was the only object of my accepting the invitation of Peter Ivanovitch....

“Peter Ivanovitch talked to you of me,” he interrupted, in that wavering, hoarse voice which suggested a horribly dry throat.

“Very little. Just told me your name, and that you had arrived here. Why should I have asked for more? What could he have told me that I did not know already from my brother’s letter? Three lines! And how much they meant to me! I will show them to you one day, Kirylo Sidorovitch. But now I must go. The first talk between us cannot be a matter of five minutes, so we had better not begin....”

I had been standing a little aside, seeing them both in profile. At that moment it occurred to me that Mr. Razumov’s face was older than his age.

“If mother” — the girl had turned suddenly to me, “were to wake up in my absence (so much longer than usual) she would perhaps question me. She seems to miss me more, you know, of late. She would want to know what delayed me — and, you see, it would be painful for me to dissemble before her.”

I understood the point very well. For the same reason she checked what seemed to be on Mr. Razumov’s part a movement to accompany her.

“No! No! I go alone, but meet me here as soon as possible.” Then to me in a lower, significant tone —

“Mother may be sitting at the window at this moment, looking down the street. She must not know anything of Mr. Razumov’s presence here till — till something is arranged.” She paused before she added a little louder, but still speaking to me, “Mr. Razumov does not quite understand my difficulty, but you know what it is.”

Chapter 5

With a quick inclination of the head for us both, and an earnest, friendly glance at the young man, Miss Haldin left us covering our heads and looking after her straight, supple figure receding rapidly. Her walk was not that hybrid and uncertain gliding affected by some women, but a frank, strong, healthy movement forward. Rapidly she increased the distance — disappeared with suddenness at last. I discovered only then that Mr. Razumov, after ramming his hat well over his brow, was looking me over from head to foot. I dare say I was a very unexpected fact for that young Russian to stumble upon. I caught in his physiognomy, in his whole bearing, an expression compounded of curiosity and scorn, tempered by alarm — as though he had been holding his breath while I was not looking. But his eyes met mine with a gaze direct enough. I saw then for the first time that they were of a clear brown colour and fringed with thick black eyelashes. They were the youngest feature of his face. Not at all unpleasant eyes. He swayed slightly, leaning on his stick and generally hung in the wind. It flashed upon me that in leaving us together Miss Haldin had an intention — that something was entrusted to me, since, by a mere accident I had been found at hand. On this assumed ground I put all possible friendliness into my manner. I cast about for some right thing to say, and suddenly in Miss Haldin’s last words I perceived the clue to the nature of my mission.

“No,” I said gravely, if with a smile, “you cannot be expected to understand.”

His clean-shaven lip quivered ever so little before he said, as if wickedly amused —

“But haven’t you heard just now? I was thanked by that young lady for understanding so well.”

I looked at him rather hard. Was there a hidden and inexplicable sneer in this retort? No. It was not that. It might have been resentment. Yes. But what had he to resent? He looked as though he had not slept very well of late. I could almost feel on me the weight of his unrefreshed, motionless stare, the stare of a man who lies unwinking in the dark, angrily passive in the toils of disastrous thoughts. Now, when I know how true it was, I can honestly affirm that this was the effect he produced on me. It was painful in a curiously indefinite way — for, of course, the definition comes to me now while I sit writing in the fullness of my knowledge. But this is what the effect was at that time of absolute ignorance. This new sort of uneasiness which he seemed to be forcing upon me I attempted to put down by assuming a conversational, easy familiarity.

“That extremely charming and essentially admirable young girl (I am — as you see — old enough to be frank in my expressions) was referring to her own feelings. Surely you must have understood that much?”

He made such a brusque movement that he even tottered a little.

“Must understand this! Not expected to understand that! I may have other things to do. And the girl is charming and admirable. Well — and if she is! I suppose I can see that for myself.”

This sally would have been insulting if his voice had not been practically extinct, dried up in his throat; and the rustling effort of his speech too painful to give real offence.

I remained silent, checked between the obvious fact and the subtle impression. It was open to me to leave him there and then; but the sense of having been entrusted with a mission, the suggestion of Miss Haldin’s last glance, was strong upon me. After a moment of reflection I said —

“Shall we walk together a little?”

He shrugged his shoulders so violently that he tottered again. I saw it out of the corner of my eye as I moved on, with him at my elbow. He had fallen back a little and was practically out of my sight, unless I turned my head to look at him. I did not wish to indispose him still further by an appearance of marked curiosity. It might have been distasteful to such a young and secret refugee from under the pestilential shadow hiding the true, kindly face of his land. And the shadow, the attendant of his countrymen, stretching across the middle of Europe, was lying on him too, darkening his figure to my mental vision. “Without doubt,” I said to myself, “he seems a sombre, even a desperate revolutionist; but he is young, he may be unselfish and humane, capable of compassion, of....”

I heard him clear gratingly his parched throat, and became all attention.

“This is beyond everything,” were his first words. “It is beyond everything! I find you here, for no reason that I can understand, in possession of something I cannot be expected to understand! A confidant! A foreigner! Talking about an admirable Russian girl. Is the admirable girl a fool, I begin to wonder? What are you at? What is your object?”

He was barely audible, as if his throat had no more resonance than a dry rag, a piece of tinder. It was so pitiful that I found it extremely easy to control my indignation.

“When you have lived a little longer, Mr. Razumov, you will discover that no woman is an absolute fool. I am not a feminist, like that illustrious author, Peter Ivanovitch, who, to say the truth, is not a little suspect to me....”

He interrupted me, in a surprising note of whispering astonishment.

“Suspect to you! Peter Ivanovitch suspect to you! To you!...”

“Yes, in a certain aspect he is,” I said, dismissing my remark lightly. “As I was saying, Mr. Razumov, when you have lived long enough, you will learn to discriminate between the noble trustfulness of a nature foreign to every meanness and the flattered credulity of some women; though even the credulous, silly as they may be, unhappy as they are sure to be, are never absolute fools. It is my belief that no woman is ever completely deceived. Those that are lost leap into the abyss with their eyes open, if all the truth were known.”

“Upon my word,” he cried at my elbow, “what is it to me whether women are fools or lunatics? I really don’t care what you think of them. I — I am not interested in them. I let them be. I am not a young man in a novel. How do you know that I want to learn anything about women?... What is the meaning of all this?”

“The object, you mean, of this conversation, which I admit I have forced upon you in a measure.”

“Forced! Object!” he repeated, still keeping half a pace or so behind me. “You wanted to talk about women, apparently. That’s a subject. But I don’t care for it. I have never.... In fact, I have had other subjects to think about.”

“I am concerned here with one woman only — a young girl — the sister of your dead friend — Miss Haldin. Surely you can think a little of her. What I meant from the first was that there is a situation which you cannot be expected to understand.”

I listened to his unsteady footfalls by my side for the space of several strides.

“I think that it may prepare the ground for your next interview with Miss Haldin if I tell you of it. I imagine that she might have had something of the kind in her mind when she left us together. I believe myself authorized to speak. The peculiar situation I have alluded to has arisen in the first grief and distress of Victor Haldin’s execution. There was something peculiar in the circumstances of his arrest. You no doubt know the whole truth....”

I felt my arm seized above the elbow, and next instant found myself swung so as to face Mr. Razumov.

“You spring up from the ground before me with this talk. Who the devil are you? This is not to be borne! Why! What for? What do you know what is or is not peculiar? What have you to do with any confounded circumstances, or with anything that happens in Russia, anyway?”

He leaned on his stick with his other hand, heavily; and when he let go my arm, I was certain in my mind that he was hardly able to keep on his feet.

“Let us sit down at one of these vacant tables,” I proposed, disregarding this display of unexpectedly profound emotion. It was not without its effect on me, I confess. I was sorry for him.

“What tables? What are you talking about? Oh — the empty tables? The tables there. Certainly. I will sit at one of the empty tables.”

I led him away from the path to the very centre of the raft of deals before the chalet. The Swiss couple were gone by that time. We were alone on the raft, so to speak. Mr. Razumov dropped into a chair, let fall his stick, and propped on his elbows, his head between his hands, stared at me persistently, openly, and continuously, while I signalled the waiter and ordered some beer. I could not quarrel with this silent inspection very well, because, truth to tell, I felt somewhat guilty of having been sprung on him with some abruptness — of having “sprung from the ground,” as he expressed it.

While waiting to be served I mentioned that, born from parents settled in St. Petersburg, I had acquired the language as a child. The town I did not remember, having left it for good as a boy of nine, but in later years I had renewed my acquaintance with the language. He listened, without as much as moving his eyes the least little bit. He had to change his position when the beer came, and the instant draining of his glass revived him. He leaned back in his chair and, folding his arms across his chest, continued to stare at me squarely. It occurred to me that his clean-shaven, almost swarthy face was really of the very mobile sort, and that the absolute stillness of it was the acquired habit of a revolutionist, of a conspirator everlastingly on his guard against self-betrayal in a world of secret spies.

“But you are an Englishman — a teacher of English literature,” he murmured, in a voice that was no longer issuing from a parched throat. “I have heard of you. People told me you have lived here for years.”

“Quite true. More than twenty years. And I have been assisting Miss Haldin with her English studies.”

“You have been reading English poetry with her,” he said, immovable now, like another man altogether, a complete stranger to the man of the heavy and uncertain footfalls a little while ago — at my elbow.

“Yes, English poetry,” I said. “But the trouble of which I speak was caused by an English newspaper.”

He continued to stare at me. I don’t think he was aware that the story of the midnight arrest had been ferreted out by an English journalist and given to the world. When I explained this to him he muttered contemptuously, “It may have been altogether a lie.”

“I should think you are the best judge of that,” I retorted, a little disconcerted. “I must confess that to me it looks to be true in the main.”

“How can you tell truth from lies?” he queried in his new, immovable manner.

“I don’t know how you do it in Russia,” I began, rather nettled by his attitude. He interrupted me.

“In Russia, and in general everywhere — in a newspaper, for instance. The colour of the ink and the shapes of the letters are the same.”

“Well, there are other trifles one can go by. The character of the publication, the general verisimilitude of the news, the consideration of the motive, and so on. I don’t trust blindly the accuracy of special correspondents — but why should this one have gone to the trouble of concocting a circumstantial falsehood on a matter of no importance to the world?”

“That’s what it is,” he grumbled. “What’s going on with us is of no importance — a mere sensational story to amuse the readers of the papers — the superior contemptuous Europe. It is hateful to think of. But let them wait a bit!”

He broke off on this sort of threat addressed to the western world. Disregarding the anger in his stare, I pointed out that whether the journalist was well- or ill-informed, the concern of the friends of these ladies was with the effect the few lines of print in question had produced — the effect alone. And surely he must be counted as one of the friends — if only for the sake of his late comrade and intimate fellow-revolutionist. At that point I thought he was going to speak vehemently; but he only astounded me by the convulsive start of his whole body. He restrained himself, folded his loosened arms tighter across his chest, and sat back with a smile in which there was a twitch of scorn and malice.

“Yes, a comrade and an intimate.... Very well,” he said.

“I ventured to speak to you on that assumption. And I cannot be mistaken. I was present when Peter Ivanovitch announced your arrival here to Miss Haldin, and I saw her relief and thankfulness when your name was mentioned. Afterwards she showed me her brother’s letter, and read out the few words in which he alludes to you. What else but a friend could you have been?”

“Obviously. That’s perfectly well known. A friend. Quite correct.... Go on. You were talking of some effect.”

I said to myself: “He puts on the callousness of a stern revolutionist, the insensibility to common emotions of a man devoted to a destructive idea. He is young, and his sincerity assumes a pose before a stranger, a foreigner, an old man. Youth must assert itself....” As concisely as possible I exposed to him the state of mind poor Mrs. Haldin had been thrown into by the news of her son’s untimely end.

He listened — I felt it — with profound attention. His level stare deflected gradually downwards, left my face, and rested at last on the ground at his feet.

“You can enter into the sister’s feelings. As you said, I have only read a little English poetry with her, and I won’t make myself ridiculous in your eyes by trying to speak of her. But you have seen her. She is one of these rare human beings that do not want explaining. At least I think so. They had only that son, that brother, for a link with the wider world, with the future. The very groundwork of active existence for Nathalie Haldin is gone with him. Can you wonder then that she turns with eagerness to the only man her brother mentions in his letters. Your name is a sort of legacy.”

“What could he have written of me?” he cried, in a low, exasperated tone.

“Only a few words. It is not for me to repeat them to you, Mr. Razumov; but you may believe my assertion that these words are forcible enough to make both his mother and his sister believe implicitly in the worth of your judgment and in the truth of anything you may have to say to them. It’s impossible for you now to pass them by like strangers.”

I paused, and for a moment sat listening to the footsteps of the few people passing up and down the broad central walk. While I was speaking his head had sunk upon his breast above his folded arms. He raised it sharply.

“Must I go then and lie to that old woman!”

It was not anger; it was something else, something more poignant, and not so simple. I was aware of it sympathetically, while I was profoundly concerned at the nature of that exclamation.

“Dear me! Won’t the truth do, then? I hoped you could have told them something consoling. I am thinking of the poor mother now. Your Russia is a cruel country.”

He moved a little in his chair.

“Yes,” I repeated. “I thought you would have had something authentic to tell.”

The twitching of his lips before he spoke was curious.

“What if it is not worth telling?”

“Not worth — from what point of view? I don’t understand.”

“From every point of view.”

I spoke with some asperity.

“I should think that anything which could explain the circumstances of that midnight arrest....”

“Reported by a journalist for the amusement of the civilized Europe,” he broke in scornfully.

“Yes, reported.... But aren’t they true? I can’t make out your attitude in this? Either the man is a hero to you, or...”

He approached his face with fiercely distended nostrils close to mine so suddenly that I had the greatest difficulty in not starting back.

“You ask me! I suppose it amuses you, all this. Look here! I am a worker. I studied. Yes, I studied very hard. There is intelligence here.” (He tapped his forehead with his finger-tips.) “Don’t you think a Russian may have sane ambitions? Yes — I had even prospects. Certainly! I had. And now you see me here, abroad, everything gone, lost, sacrificed. You see me here — and you ask! You see me, don’t you? — sitting before you.”

He threw himself back violently. I kept outwardly calm.

“Yes, I see you here; and I assume you are here on account of the Haldin affair?”

His manner changed.

“You call it the Haldin affair — do you?” he observed indifferently.

“I have no right to ask you anything,” I said. “I wouldn’t presume. But in that case the mother and the sister of him who must be a hero in your eyes cannot be indifferent to you. The girl is a frank and generous creature, having the noblest — well — illusions. You will tell her nothing — or you will tell her everything. But speaking now of the object with which I’ve approached you first, we have to deal with the morbid state of the mother. Perhaps something could be invented under your authority as a cure for a distracted and suffering soul filled with maternal affection.”

His air of weary indifference was accentuated, I could not help thinking, wilfully.

“Oh yes. Something might,” he mumbled carelessly.

He put his hand over his mouth to conceal a yawn. When he uncovered his lips they were smiling faintly.

“Pardon me. This has been a long conversation, and I have not had much sleep the last two nights.”

This unexpected, somewhat insolent sort of apology had the merit of being perfectly true. He had had no nightly rest to speak of since that day when, in the grounds of the Chateau Borel, the sister of Victor Haldin had appeared before him. The perplexities and the complex terrors — I may say — of this sleeplessness are recorded in the document I was to see later — the document which is the main source of this narrative. At the moment he looked to me convincingly tired, gone slack all over, like a man who has passed through some sort of crisis.

“I have had a lot of urgent writing to do,” he added.

I rose from my chair at once, and he followed my example, without haste, a little heavily.

“I must apologize for detaining you so long,” I said.

“Why apologize? One can’t very well go to bed before night. And you did not detain me. I could have left you at any time.”

I had not stayed with him to be offended.

“I am glad you have been sufficiently interested,” I said calmly. “No merit of mine, though — the commonest sort of regard for the mother of your friend was enough.... As to Miss Haldin herself, she at one time was disposed to think that her brother had been betrayed to the police in some way.”

To my great surprise Mr. Razumov sat down again suddenly. I stared at him, and I must say that he returned my stare without winking for quite a considerable time.

“In some way,” he mumbled, as if he had not understood or could not believe his ears.

“Some unforeseen event, a sheer accident might have done that,” I went on. “Or, as she characteristically put it to me, the folly or weakness of some unhappy fellow-revolutionist.”

“Folly or weakness,” he repeated bitterly.

“She is a very generous creature,” I observed after a time. The man admired by Victor Haldin fixed his eyes on the ground. I turned away and moved off, apparently unnoticed by him. I nourished no resentment of the moody brusqueness with which he had treated me. The sentiment I was carrying away from that conversation was that of hopelessness. Before I had got fairly clear of the raft of chairs and tables he had rejoined me.

“H’m, yes!” I heard him at my elbow again. “But what do you think?”

I did not look round even.

“I think that you people are under a curse.”

He made no sound. It was only on the pavement outside the gate that I heard him again.

“I should like to walk with you a little.”

After all, I preferred this enigmatical young man to his celebrated compatriot, the great Peter Ivanovitch. But I saw no reason for being particularly gracious.

“I am going now to the railway station, by the shortest way from here, to meet a friend from England,” I said, for all answer to his unexpected proposal. I hoped that something informing could come of it. As we stood on the curbstone waiting for a tramcar to pass, he remarked gloomily —

“I like what you said just now.”

“Do you?”

We stepped off the pavement together.

“The great problem,” he went on, “is to understand thoroughly the nature of the curse.”

“That’s not very difficult, I think.”

“I think so too,” he agreed with me, and his readiness, strangely enough, did not make him less enigmatical in the least.

“A curse is an evil spell,” I tried him again. “And the important, the great problem, is to find the means to break it.”

“Yes. To find the means.”

That was also an assent, but he seemed to be thinking of something else. We had crossed diagonally the open space before the theatre, and began to descend a broad, sparely frequented street in the direction of one of the smaller bridges. He kept on by my side without speaking for a long time.

“You are not thinking of leaving Geneva soon?” I asked.

He was silent for so long that I began to think I had been indiscreet, and should get no answer at all. Yet on looking at him I almost believed that my question had caused him something in the nature of positive anguish. I detected it mainly in the clasping of his hands, in which he put a great force stealthily. Once, however, he had overcome that sort of agonizing hesitation sufficiently to tell me that he had no such intention, he became rather communicative — at least relatively to the former off-hand curtness of his speeches. The tone, too, was more amiable. He informed me that he intended to study and also to write. He went even so far as to tell me he had been to Stuttgart. Stuttgart, I was aware, was one of the revolutionary centres. The directing committee of one of the Russian parties (I can’t tell now which) was located in that town. It was there that he got into touch with the active work of the revolutionists outside Russia.

“I have never been abroad before,” he explained, in a rather inanimate voice now. Then, after a slight hesitation, altogether different from the agonizing irresolution my first simple question “whether he meant to stay in Geneva” had aroused, he made me an unexpected confidence —

“The fact is, I have received a sort of mission from them.”

“Which will keep you here in Geneva?”

“Yes. Here. In this odious....”

I was satisfied with my faculty for putting two and two together when I drew the inference that the mission had something to do with the person of the great Peter Ivanovitch. But I kept that surmise to myself naturally, and Mr. Razumov said nothing more for some considerable time. It was only when we were nearly on the bridge we had been making for that he opened his lips again, abruptly —

“Could I see that precious article anywhere?”

I had to think for a moment before I saw what he was referring to.

“It has been reproduced in parts by the Press here. There are files to be seen in various places. My copy of the English newspaper I have left with Miss Haldin, I remember, on the day after it reached me. I was sufficiently worried by seeing it lying on a table by the side of the poor mother’s chair for weeks. Then it disappeared. It was a relief, I assure you.”

He had stopped short.

“I trust,” I continued, “that you will find time to see these ladies fairly often — that you will make time.”

He stared at me so queerly that I hardly know how to define his aspect. I could not understand it in this connexion at all. What ailed him? I asked myself. What strange thought had come into his head? What vision of all the horrors that can be seen in his hopeless country had come suddenly to haunt his brain? If it were anything connected with the fate of Victor Haldin, then I hoped earnestly he would keep it to himself for ever. I was, to speak plainly, so shocked that I tried to conceal my impression by — Heaven forgive me — a smile and the assumption of a light manner.

“Surely,” I exclaimed, “that needn’t cost you a great effort.”

He turned away from me and leaned over the parapet of the bridge. For a moment I waited, looking at his back. And yet, I assure you, I was not anxious just then to look at his face again. He did not move at all. He did not mean to move. I walked on slowly on my way towards the station, and at the end of the bridge I glanced over my shoulder. No, he had not moved. He hung well over the parapet, as if captivated by the smooth rush of the blue water under the arch. The current there is swift, extremely swift; it makes some people dizzy; I myself can never look at it for any length of time without experiencing a dread of being suddenly snatched away by its destructive force. Some brains cannot resist the suggestion of irresistible power and of headlong motion.

It apparently had a charm for Mr. Razumov. I left him hanging far over the parapet of the bridge. The way he had behaved to me could not be put down to mere boorishness. There was something else under his scorn and impatience. Perhaps, I thought, with sudden approach to hidden truth, it was the same thing which had kept him over a week, nearly ten days indeed, from coming near Miss Haldin. But what it was I could not tell.

Part 3

Chapter 1

The water under the bridge ran violent and deep. Its slightly undulating rush seemed capable of scouring out a channel for itself through solid granite while you looked. But had it flowed through Razumov’s breast, it could not have washed away the accumulated bitterness the wrecking of his life had deposited there.

“What is the meaning of all this?” he thought, staring downwards at the headlong flow so smooth and clean that only the passage of a faint air-bubble, or a thin vanishing streak of foam like a white hair, disclosed its vertiginous rapidity, its terrible force. “Why has that meddlesome old Englishman blundered against me? And what is this silly tale of a crazy old woman?”

He was trying to think brutally on purpose, but he avoided any mental reference to the young girl. “A crazy old woman,” he repeated to himself. “It is a fatality! Or ought I to despise all this as absurd? But no! I am wrong! I can’t afford to despise anything. An absurdity may be the starting-point of the most dangerous complications. How is one to guard against it? It puts to rout one’s intelligence. The more intelligent one is the less one suspects an absurdity.”

A wave of wrath choked his thoughts for a moment. It even made his body leaning over the parapet quiver; then he resumed his silent thinking, like a secret dialogue with himself. And even in that privacy, his thought had some reservations of which he was vaguely conscious.

“After all, this is not absurd. It is insignificant. It is absolutely insignificant — absolutely. The craze of an old woman — the fussy officiousness of a blundering elderly Englishman. What devil put him in the way? Haven’t I treated him cavalierly enough? Haven’t I just? That’s the way to treat these meddlesome persons. Is it possible that he still stands behind my back, waiting?”

Razumov felt a faint chill run down his spine. It was not fear. He was certain that it was not fear — not fear for himself — but it was, all the same, a sort of apprehension as if for another, for some one he knew without being able to put a name on the personality. But the recollection that the officious Englishman had a train to meet tranquillized him for a time. It was too stupid to suppose that he should be wasting his time in waiting. It was unnecessary to look round and make sure.

But what did the man mean by his extraordinary rigmarole about the newspaper, and that crazy old woman? he thought suddenly. It was a damnable presumption, anyhow, something that only an Englishman could be capable of. All this was a sort of sport for him — the sport of revolution — a game to look at from the height of his superiority. And what on earth did he mean by his exclamation, “Won’t the truth do?”

Razumov pressed his folded arms to the stone coping over which he was leaning with force. “Won’t the truth do? The truth for the crazy old mother of the — ”

The young man shuddered again. Yes. The truth would do! Apparently it would do. Exactly. And receive thanks, he thought, formulating the unspoken words cynically. “Fall on my neck in gratitude, no doubt,” he jeered mentally. But this mood abandoned him at once. He felt sad, as if his heart had become empty suddenly. “Well, I must be cautious,” he concluded, coming to himself as though his brain had been awakened from a trance. “There is nothing, no one, too insignificant, too absurd to be disregarded,” he thought wearily. “I must be cautious.”

Razumov pushed himself with his hand away from the balustrade and, retracing his steps along the bridge, walked straight to his lodgings, where, for a few days, he led a solitary and retired existence. He neglected Peter Ivanovitch, to whom he was accredited by the Stuttgart group; he never went near the refugee revolutionists, to whom he had been introduced on his arrival. He kept out of that world altogether. And he felt that such conduct, causing surprise and arousing suspicion, contained an element of danger for himself.

This is not to say that during these few days he never went out. I met him several times in the streets, but he gave me no recognition. Once, going home after an evening call on the ladies Haldin, I saw him crossing the dark roadway of the Boulevard des Philosophes. He had a broad-brimmed soft hat, and the collar of his coat turned up. I watched him make straight for the house, but, instead of going in, he stopped opposite the still lighted windows, and after a time went away down a side-street.

I knew that he had not been to see Mrs. Haldin yet. Miss Haldin told me he was reluctant; moreover, the mental condition of Mrs. Haldin had changed. She seemed to think now that her son was living, and she perhaps awaited his arrival. Her immobility in the great arm-chair in front of the window had an air of expectancy, even when the blind was down and the lamps lighted.

For my part, I was convinced that she had received her death-stroke; Miss Haldin, to whom, of course, I said nothing of my forebodings, thought that no good would come from introducing Mr. Razumov just then, an opinion which I shared fully. I knew that she met the young man on the Bastions. Once or twice I saw them strolling slowly up the main alley. They met every day for weeks. I avoided passing that way during the hour when Miss Haldin took her exercise there. One day, however, in a fit of absent-mindedness, I entered the gates and came upon her walking alone. I stopped to exchange a few words. Mr. Razumov failed to turn up, and we began to talk about him — naturally.

“Did he tell you anything definite about your brother’s activities — his end?” I ventured to ask.

“No,” admitted Miss Haldin, with some hesitation. “Nothing definite.”

I understood well enough that all their conversations must have been referred mentally to that dead man who had brought them together. That was unavoidable. But it was in the living man that she was interested. That was unavoidable too, I suppose. And as I pushed my inquiries I discovered that he had disclosed himself to her as a by no means conventional revolutionist, contemptuous of catchwords, of theories, of men too. I was rather pleased at that — but I was a little puzzled.

“His mind goes forward, far ahead of the struggle,” Miss Haldin explained. “Of course, he is an actual worker too,” she added.

“And do you understand him?” I inquired point-blank.

She hesitated again. “Not altogether,” she murmured.

I perceived that he had fascinated her by an assumption of mysterious reserve.

“Do you know what I think?” she went on, breaking through her reserved, almost reluctant attitude: “I think that he is observing, studying me, to discover whether I am worthy of his trust....”

“And that pleases you?”

She kept mysteriously silent for a moment. Then with energy, but in a confidential tone —

“I am convinced;” she declared, “that this extraordinary man is meditating some vast plan, some great undertaking; he is possessed by it — he suffers from it — and from being alone in the world.”

“And so he’s looking for helpers?” I commented, turning away my head.

Again there was a silence.

“Why not?” she said at last.

The dead brother, the dying mother, the foreign friend, had fallen into a distant background. But, at the same time, Peter Ivanovitch was absolutely nowhere now. And this thought consoled me. Yet I saw the gigantic shadow of Russian life deepening around her like the darkness of an advancing night. It would devour her presently. I inquired after Mrs. Haldin — that other victim of the deadly shade.

A remorseful uneasiness appeared in her frank eyes. Mother seemed no worse, but if I only knew what strange fancies she had sometimes! Then Miss Haldin, glancing at her watch, declared that she could not stay a moment longer, and with a hasty hand-shake ran off lightly.

Decidedly, Mr. Razumov was not to turn up that day. Incomprehensible youth!

But less than an hour afterwards, while crossing the Place Mollard, I caught sight of him boarding a South Shore tramcar.

“He’s going to the Chateau Borel,” I thought.

After depositing Razumov at the gates of the Chateau Borel, some half a mile or so from the town, the car continued its journey between two straight lines of shady trees. Across the roadway in the sunshine a short wooden pier jutted into the shallow pale water, which farther out had an intense blue tint contrasting unpleasantly with the green orderly slopes on the opposite shore. The whole view, with the harbour jetties of white stone underlining lividly the dark front of the town to the left, and the expanding space of water to the right with jutting promontories of no particular character, had the uninspiring, glittering quality of a very fresh oleograph. Razumov turned his back on it with contempt. He thought it odious — oppressively odious — in its unsuggestive finish: the very perfection of mediocrity attained at last after centuries of toil and culture. And turning his back on it, he faced the entrance to the grounds of the Chateau Borel.

The bars of the central way and the wrought-iron arch between the dark weather-stained stone piers were very rusty; and, though fresh tracks of wheels ran under it, the gate looked as if it had not been opened for a very long time. But close against the lodge, built of the same grey stone as the piers (its windows were all boarded up), there was a small side entrance. The bars of that were rusty too; it stood ajar and looked as though it had not been closed for a long time. In fact, Razumov, trying to push it open a little wider, discovered it was immovable.

“Democratic virtue. There are no thieves here, apparently,” he muttered to himself, with displeasure. Before advancing into the grounds he looked back sourly at an idle working man lounging on a bench in the clean, broad avenue. The fellow had thrown his feet up; one of his arms hung over the low back of the public seat; he was taking a day off in lordly repose, as if everything in sight belonged to him.

“Elector! Eligible! Enlightened!” Razumov muttered to himself. “A brute, all the same.”

Razumov entered the grounds and walked fast up the wide sweep of the drive, trying to think of nothing — to rest his head, to rest his emotions too. But arriving at the foot of the terrace before the house he faltered, affected physically by some invisible interference. The mysteriousness of his quickened heart-beats startled him. He stopped short and looked at the brick wall of the terrace, faced with shallow arches, meagrely clothed by a few unthriving creepers, with an ill-kept narrow flower-bed along its foot.

“It is here!” he thought, with a sort of awe. “It is here — on this very spot....”

He was tempted to flight at the mere recollection of his first meeting with Nathalie Haldin. He confessed it to himself; but he did not move, and that not because he wished to resist an unworthy weakness, but because he knew that he had no place to fly to. Moreover, he could not leave Geneva. He recognized, even without thinking, that it was impossible. It would have been a fatal admission, an act of moral suicide. It would have been also physically dangerous. Slowly he ascended the stairs of the terrace, flanked by two stained greenish stone urns of funereal aspect.

Across the broad platform, where a few blades of grass sprouted on the discoloured gravel, the door of the house, with its ground-floor windows shuttered, faced him, wide open. He believed that his approach had been noted, because, framed in the doorway, without his tall hat, Peter Ivanovitch seemed to be waiting for his approach.

The ceremonious black frock-coat and the bared head of Europe’s greatest feminist accentuated the dubiousness of his status in the house rented by Madame de S — , his Egeria. His aspect combined the formality of the caller with the freedom of the proprietor. Florid and bearded and masked by the dark blue glasses, he met the visitor, and at once took him familiarly under the arm.

Razumov suppressed every sign of repugnance by an effort which the constant necessity of prudence had rendered almost mechanical. And this necessity had settled his expression in a cast of austere, almost fanatical, aloofness. The “heroic fugitive,” impressed afresh by the severe detachment of this new arrival from revolutionary Russia, took a conciliatory, even a confidential tone. Madame de S — was resting after a bad night. She often had bad nights. He had left his hat upstairs on the landing and had come down to suggest to his young friend a stroll and a good open-hearted talk in one of the shady alleys behind the house. After voicing this proposal, the great man glanced at the unmoved face by his side, and could not restrain himself from exclaiming —

“On my word, young man, you are an extraordinary person.”

“I fancy you are mistaken, Peter Ivanovitch. If I were really an extraordinary person, I would not be here, walking with you in a garden in Switzerland, Canton of Geneva, Commune of — what’s the name of the Commune this place belongs to?... Never mind — the heart of democracy, anyhow. A fit heart for it; no bigger than a parched pea and about as much value. I am no more extraordinary than the rest of us Russians, wandering abroad.”

But Peter Ivanovitch dissented emphatically —

“No! No! You are not ordinary. I have some experience of Russians who are — well — living abroad. You appear to me, and to others too, a marked personality.”

“What does he mean by this?” Razumov asked himself, turning his eyes fully on his companion. The face of Peter Ivanovitch expressed a meditative seriousness.

“You don’t suppose, Kirylo Sidorovitch, that I have not heard of you from various points where you made yourself known on your way here? I have had letters.”

“Oh, we are great in talking about each other,” interjected Razumov, who had listened with great attention. “Gossip, tales, suspicions, and all that sort of thing, we know how to deal in to perfection. Calumny, even.”

In indulging in this sally, Razumov managed very well to conceal the feeling of anxiety which had come over him. At the same time he was saying to himself that there could be no earthly reason for anxiety. He was relieved by the evident sincerity of the protesting voice.

“Heavens!” cried Peter Ivanovitch. “What are you talking about? What reason can you have to...?”

The great exile flung up his arms as if words had failed him in sober truth. Razumov was satisfied. Yet he was moved to continue in the same vein.

“I am talking of the poisonous plants which flourish in the world of conspirators, like evil mushrooms in a dark cellar.”

“You are casting aspersions,” remonstrated Peter Ivanovitch, “which as far as you are concerned — ”

“No!” Razumov interrupted without heat. “Indeed, I don’t want to cast aspersions, but it’s just as well to have no illusions.”

Peter Ivanovitch gave him an inscrutable glance of his dark spectacles, accompanied by a faint smile.

“The man who says that he has no illusions has at least that one,” he said, in a very friendly tone. “But I see how it is, Kirylo Sidorovitch. You aim at stoicism.”

“Stoicism! That’s a pose of the Greeks and the Romans. Let’s leave it to them. We are Russians, that is — children; that is — sincere; that is — cynical, if you like. But that’s not a pose.”

A long silence ensued. They strolled slowly under the lime-trees. Peter Ivanovitch had put his hands behind his back. Razumov felt the ungravelled ground of the deeply shaded walk damp and as if slippery under his feet. He asked himself, with uneasiness, if he were saying the right things. The direction of the conversation ought to have been more under his control, he reflected. The great man appeared to be reflecting on his side too. He cleared his throat slightly, and Razumov felt at once a painful reawakening of scorn and fear.

“I am astonished,” began Peter Ivanovitch gently. “Supposing you are right in your indictment, how can you raise any question of calumny or gossip, in your case? It is unreasonable. The fact is, Kirylo Sidorovitch, there is not enough known of you to give hold to gossip or even calumny. Just now you are a man associated with a great deed, which had been hoped for, and tried for too, without success. People have perished for attempting that which you and Haldin have done at last. You come to us out of Russia, with that prestige. But you cannot deny that you have not been communicative, Kirylo Sidorovitch. People you have met imparted their impressions to me; one wrote this, another that, but I form my own opinions. I waited to see you first. You are a man out of the common. That’s positively so. You are close, very close. This taciturnity, this severe brow, this something inflexible and secret in you, inspires hopes and a little wonder as to what you may mean. There is something of a Brutus....”

“Pray spare me those classical allusions!” burst out Razumov nervously. “What comes Junius Brutus to do here? It is ridiculous! Do you mean to say,” he added sarcastically, but lowering his voice, “that the Russian revolutionists are all patricians and that I am an aristocrat?”

Peter Ivanovitch, who had been helping himself with a few gestures, clasped his hands again behind his back, and made a few steps, pondering.

“Not all patricians,” he muttered at last. “But you, at any rate, are one of us.”

Razumov smiled bitterly.

“To be sure my name is not Gugenheimer,” he said in a sneering tone. “I am not a democratic Jew. How can I help it? Not everybody has such luck. I have no name, I have no....”

The European celebrity showed a great concern. He stepped back a pace and his arms flew in front of his person, extended, deprecatory, almost entreating. His deep bass voice was full of pain.

“But, my dear young friend!” he cried. “My dear Kirylo Sidorovitch....”

Razumov shook his head.

“The very patronymic you are so civil as to use when addressing me I have no legal right to — but what of that? I don’t wish to claim it. I have no father. So much the better. But I will tell you what: my mother’s grandfather was a peasant — a serf. See how much I am one of you. I don’t want anyone to claim me. But Russia can’t disown me. She cannot!”

Razumov struck his breast with his fist.

“I am it!”

Peter Ivanovitch walked on slowly, his head lowered. Razumov followed, vexed with himself. That was not the right sort of talk. All sincerity was an imprudence. Yet one could not renounce truth altogether, he thought, with despair. Peter Ivanovitch, meditating behind his dark glasses, became to him suddenly so odious that if he had had a knife, he fancied he could have stabbed him not only without compunction, but with a horrible, triumphant satisfaction. His imagination dwelt on that atrocity in spite of himself. It was as if he were becoming light-headed. “It is not what is expected of me,” he repeated to himself. “It is not what is — I could get away by breaking the fastening on the little gate I see there in the back wall. It is a flimsy lock. Nobody in the house seems to know he is here with me. Oh yes. The hat! These women would discover presently the hat he has left on the landing. They would come upon him, lying dead in this damp, gloomy shade — but I would be gone and no one could ever...Lord! Am I going mad?” he asked himself in a fright.

The great man was heard — musing in an undertone.

“H’m, yes! That — no doubt — in a certain sense....” He raised his voice. “There is a deal of pride about you....”

The intonation of Peter Ivanovitch took on a homely, familiar ring, acknowledging, in a way, Razumov’s claim to peasant descent.

“A great deal of pride, brother Kirylo. And I don’t say that you have no justification for it. I have admitted you had. I have ventured to allude to the facts of your birth simply because I attach no mean importance to it. You are one of us — un des notres. I reflect on that with satisfaction.”

“I attach some importance to it also,” said Razumov quietly. “I won’t even deny that it may have some importance for you too,” he continued, after a slight pause and with a touch of grimness of which he was himself aware, with some annoyance. He hoped it had escaped the perception of Peter Ivanovitch. “But suppose we talk no more about it?”

“Well, we shall not — not after this one time, Kirylo Sidorovitch,” persisted the noble arch-priest of Revolution. “This shall be the last occasion. You cannot believe for a moment that I had the slightest idea of wounding your feelings. You are clearly a superior nature — that’s how I read you. Quite above the common — h’m — susceptibilities. But the fact is, Kirylo Sidorovitch, I don’t know your susceptibilities. Nobody, out of Russia, knows much of you — as yet!”

“You have been watching me?” suggested Razumov.


The great man had spoken in a tone of perfect frankness, but as they turned their faces to each other Razumov felt baffled by the dark spectacles. Under their cover, Peter Ivanovitch hinted that he had felt for some time the need of meeting a man of energy and character, in view of a certain project. He said nothing more precise, however; and after some critical remarks upon the personalities of the various members of the committee of revolutionary action in Stuttgart, he let the conversation lapse for quite a long while. They paced the alley from end to end. Razumov, silent too, raised his eyes from time to time to cast a glance at the back of the house. It offered no sign of being inhabited. With its grimy, weather-stained walls and all the windows shuttered from top to bottom, it looked damp and gloomy and deserted. It might very well have been haunted in traditional style by some doleful, groaning, futile ghost of a middle-class order. The shades evoked, as worldly rumour had it, by Madame de S — to meet statesmen, diplomatists, deputies of various European Parliaments, must have been of another sort. Razumov had never seen Madame de S — but in the carriage.

Peter Ivanovitch came out of his abstraction.

“Two things I may say to you at once. I believe, first, that neither a leader nor any decisive action can come out of the dregs of a people. Now, if you ask me what are the dregs of a people — h’m — it would take too long to tell. You would be surprised at the variety of ingredients that for me go to the making up of these dregs — of that which ought, must remain at the bottom. Moreover, such a statement might be subject to discussion. But I can tell you what is not the dregs. On that it is impossible for us to disagree. The peasantry of a people is not the dregs; neither is its highest class — well — the nobility. Reflect on that, Kirylo Sidorovitch! I believe you are well fitted for reflection. Everything in a people that is not genuine, not its own by origin or development, is — well — dirt! Intelligence in the wrong place is that. Foreign-bred doctrines are that. Dirt! Dregs! The second thing I would offer to your meditation is this: that for us at this moment there yawns a chasm between the past and the future. It can never be bridged by foreign liberalism. All attempts at it are either folly or cheating. Bridged it can never be! It has to be filled up.”

A sort of sinister jocularity had crept into the tones of the burly feminist. He seized Razumov’s arm above the elbow, and gave it a slight shake.

“Do you understand, enigmatical young man? It has got to be just filled up.”

Razumov kept an unmoved countenance.

“Don’t you think that I have already gone beyond meditation on that subject?” he said, freeing his arm by a quiet movement which increased the distance a little between himself and Peter Ivanovitch, as they went on strolling abreast. And he added that surely whole cartloads of words and theories could never fill that chasm. No meditation was necessary. A sacrifice of many lives could alone — He fell silent without finishing the phrase.

Peter Ivanovitch inclined his big hairy head slowly. After a moment he proposed that they should go and see if Madame de S — was now visible.

“We shall get some tea,” he said, turning out of the shaded gloomy walk with a brisker step.

The lady companion had been on the look out. Her dark skirt whisked into the doorway as the two men came in sight round the corner. She ran off somewhere altogether, and had disappeared when they entered the hall. In the crude light falling from the dusty glass skylight upon the black and white tessellated floor, covered with muddy tracks, their footsteps echoed faintly. The great feminist led the way up the stairs. On the balustrade of the first-floor landing a shiny tall hat reposed, rim upwards, opposite the double door of the drawing-room, haunted, it was said, by evoked ghosts, and frequented, it was to be supposed, by fugitive revolutionists. The cracked white paint of the panels, the tarnished gilt of the mouldings, permitted one to imagine nothing but dust and emptiness within. Before turning the massive brass handle, Peter Ivanovitch gave his young companion a sharp, partly critical, partly preparatory glance.

“No one is perfect,” he murmured discreetly. Thus, the possessor of a rare jewel might, before opening the casket, warn the profane that no gem perhaps is flawless.

He remained with his hand on the door-handle so long that Razumov assented by a moody “No.”

“Perfection itself would not produce that effect,” pursued Peter Ivanovitch, “in a world not meant for it. But you shall find there a mind — no! — the quintessence of feminine intuition which will understand any perplexity you may be suffering from by the irresistible, enlightening force of sympathy. Nothing can remain obscure before that — that — inspired, yes, inspired penetration, this true light of femininity.”

The gaze of the dark spectacles in its glossy steadfastness gave his face an air of absolute conviction. Razumov felt a momentary shrinking before that closed door.

“Penetration? Light,” he stammered out. “Do you mean some sort of thought-reading?”

Peter Ivanovitch seemed shocked.

“I mean something utterly different,” he retorted, with a faint, pitying smile.

Razumov began to feel angry, very much against his wish.

“This is very mysterious,” he muttered through his teeth.

“You don’t object to being understood, to being guided?” queried the great feminist. Razumov exploded in a fierce whisper.

“In what sense? Be pleased to understand that I am a serious person. Who do you take me for?”

They looked at each other very closely. Razumov’s temper was cooled by the impenetrable earnestness of the blue glasses meeting his stare. Peter Ivanovitch turned the handle at last.

“You shall know directly,” he said, pushing the door open.

A low-pitched grating voice was heard within the room.


In the doorway, his black-coated bulk blocking the view, Peter Ivanovitch boomed in a hearty tone with something boastful in it.

“Yes. Here I am!”

He glanced over his shoulder at Razumov, who waited for him to move on.

“And I am bringing you a proved conspirator — a real one this time. Un vrai celui la.”

This pause in the doorway gave the “proved conspirator” time to make sure that his face did not betray his angry curiosity and his mental disgust.

These sentiments stand confessed in Mr. Razumov’s memorandum of his first interview with Madame de S — . The very words I use in my narrative are written where their sincerity cannot be suspected. The record, which could not have been meant for anyone’s eyes but his own, was not, I think, the outcome of that strange impulse of indiscretion common to men who lead secret lives, and accounting for the invariable existence of “compromising documents” in all the plots and conspiracies of history. Mr. Razumov looked at it, I suppose, as a man looks at himself in a mirror, with wonder, perhaps with anguish, with anger or despair. Yes, as a threatened man may look fearfully at his own face in the glass, formulating to himself reassuring excuses for his appearance marked by the taint of some insidious hereditary disease.

Chapter 2

The Egeria of the “Russian Mazzini” produced, at first view, a strong effect by the death-like immobility of an obviously painted face. The eyes appeared extraordinarily brilliant. The figure, in a close-fitting dress, admirably made, but by no means fresh, had an elegant stiffness. The rasping voice inviting him to sit down; the rigidity of the upright attitude with one arm extended along the back of the sofa, the white gleam of the big eyeballs setting off the black, fathomless stare of the enlarged pupils, impressed Razumov more than anything he had seen since his hasty and secret departure from St. Petersburg. A witch in Parisian clothes, he thought. A portent! He actually hesitated in his advance, and did not even comprehend, at first, what the rasping voice was saying.

“Sit down. Draw your chair nearer me. There — ”

He sat down. At close quarters the rouged cheekbones, the wrinkles, the fine lines on each side of the vivid lips, astounded him. He was being received graciously, with a smile which made him think of a grinning skull.

“We have been hearing about you for some time.”

He did not know what to say, and murmured some disconnected words. The grinning skull effect vanished.

“And do you know that the general complaint is that you have shown yourself very reserved everywhere?”

Razumov remained silent for a time, thinking of his answer.

“I, don’t you see, am a man of action,” he said huskily, glancing upwards.

Peter Ivanovitch stood in portentous expectant silence by the side of his chair. A slight feeling of nausea came over Razumov. What could be the relations of these two people to each other? She like a galvanized corpse out of some Hoffman’s Tale — he the preacher of feminist gospel for all the world, and a super-revolutionist besides! This ancient, painted mummy with unfathomable eyes, and this burly, bull-necked, deferential...what was it? Witchcraft, fascination.... “It’s for her money,” he thought. “She has millions!”

The walls, the floor of the room were bare like a barn. The few pieces of furniture had been discovered in the garrets and dragged down into service without having been properly dusted, even. It was the refuse the banker’s widow had left behind her. The windows without curtains had an indigent, sleepless look. In two of them the dirty yellowy-white blinds had been pulled down. All this spoke, not of poverty, but of sordid penuriousness.

The hoarse voice on the sofa uttered angrily —

“You are looking round, Kirylo Sidorovitch. I have been shamefully robbed, positively ruined.”

A rattling laugh, which seemed beyond her control, interrupted her for a moment.

“A slavish nature would find consolation in the fact that the principal robber was an exalted and almost a sacrosanct person — a Grand Duke, in fact. Do you understand, Mr. Razumov? A Grand Duke — No! You have no idea what thieves those people are! Downright thieves!”

Her bosom heaved, but her left arm remained rigidly extended along the back of the couch.

“You will only upset yourself,” breathed out a deep voice, which, to Razumov’s startled glance, seemed to proceed from under the steady spectacles of Peter Ivanovitch, rather than from his lips, which had hardly moved.

“What of hat? I say thieves! Voleurs! Voleurs!”

Razumov was quite confounded by this unexpected clamour, which had in it something of wailing and croaking, and more than a suspicion of hysteria.

“Voleurs! Voleurs! Vol....”

“No power on earth can rob you of your genius,” shouted Peter Ivanovitch in an overpowering bass, but without stirring, without a gesture of any kind. A profound silence fell.

Razumov remained outwardly impassive. “What is the meaning of this performance?” he was asking himself. But with a preliminary sound of bumping outside some door behind him, the lady companion, in a threadbare black skirt and frayed blouse, came in rapidly, walking on her heels, and carrying in both hands a big Russian samovar, obviously too heavy for her. Razumov made an instinctive movement to help, which startled her so much that she nearly dropped her hissing burden. She managed, however, to land it on the table, and looked so frightened that Razumov hastened to sit down. She produced then, from an adjacent room, four glass tumblers, a teapot, and a sugar-basin, on a black iron tray.

The rasping voice asked from the sofa abruptly —

“Les gateaux? Have you remembered to bring the cakes?”

Peter Ivanovitch, without a word, marched out on to the landing, and returned instantly with a parcel wrapped up in white glazed paper, which he must have extracted from the interior of his hat. With imperturbable gravity he undid the string and smoothed the paper open on a part of the table within reach of Madame de S — ’s hand. The lady companion poured out the tea, then retired into a distant corner out of everybody’s sight. From time to time Madame de S — extended a claw-like hand, glittering with costly rings, towards the paper of cakes, took up one and devoured it, displaying her big false teeth ghoulishly. Meantime she talked in a hoarse tone of the political situation in the Balkans. She built great hopes on some complication in the peninsula for arousing a great movement of national indignation in Russia against “these thieves — thieves thieves.”

“You will only upset yourself,” Peter Ivanovitch interposed, raising his glassy gaze. He smoked cigarettes and drank tea in silence, continuously. When he had finished a glass, he flourished his hand above his shoulder. At that signal the lady companion, ensconced in her corner, with round eyes like a watchful animal, would dart out to the table and pour him out another tumblerful.

Razumov looked at her once or twice. She was anxious, tremulous, though neither Madame de S — nor Peter Ivanovitch paid the slightest attention to her. “What have they done between them to that forlorn creature?” Razumov asked himself. “Have they terrified her out of her senses with ghosts, or simply have they only been beating her?” When she gave him his second glass of tea, he noticed that her lips trembled in the manner of a scared person about to burst into speech. But of course she said nothing, and retired into her corner, as if hugging to herself the smile of thanks he gave her.

“She may be worth cultivating,” thought Razumov suddenly.

He was calming down, getting hold of the actuality into which he had been thrown — for the first time perhaps since Victor Haldin had entered his room...and had gone out again. He was distinctly aware of being the object of the famous — or notorious — Madame de S — ’s ghastly graciousness.

Madame de S — was pleased to discover that this young man was different from the other types of revolutionist members of committees, secret emissaries, vulgar and unmannerly fugitive professors, rough students, ex-cobblers with apostolic faces, consumptive and ragged enthusiasts, Hebrew youths, common fellows of all sorts that used to come and go around Peter Ivanovitch — fanatics, pedants, proletarians all. It was pleasant to talk to this young man of notably good appearance — for Madame de S — was not always in a mystical state of mind. Razumov’s taciturnity only excited her to a quicker, more voluble utterance. It still dealt with the Balkans. She knew all the statesmen of that region, Turks, Bulgarians, Montenegrins, Roumanians, Greeks, Armenians, and nondescripts, young and old, the living and the dead. With some money an intrigue could be started which would set the Peninsula in a blaze and outrage the sentiment of the Russian people. A cry of abandoned brothers could be raised, and then, with the nation seething with indignation, a couple of regiments or so would be enough to begin a military revolution in St. Petersburg and make an end of these thieves....

“Apparently I’ve got only to sit still and listen,” the silent Razumov thought to himself. “As to that hairy and obscene brute” (in such terms did Mr. Razumov refer mentally to the popular expounder of a feministic conception of social state), “as to him, for all his cunning he too shall speak out some day.”

Razumov ceased to think for a moment. Then a sombre-toned reflection formulated itself in his mind, ironical and bitter. “I have the gift of inspiring confidence.” He heard himself laughing aloud. It was like a goad to the painted, shiny-eyed harridan on the sofa.

“You may well laugh!” she cried hoarsely. “What else can one do! Perfect swindlers — and what base swindlers at that! Cheap Germans — Holstein-Gottorps! Though, indeed, it’s hardly safe to say who and what they are. A family that counts a creature like Catherine the Great in its ancestry — you understand!”

“You are only upsetting yourself,” said Peter Ivanovitch, patiently but in a firm tone. This admonition had its usual effect on the Egeria. She dropped her thick, discoloured eyelids and changed her position on the sofa. All her angular and lifeless movements seemed completely automatic now that her eyes were closed. Presently she opened them very full. Peter Ivanovitch drank tea steadily, without haste.

“Well, I declare!” She addressed Razumov directly. “The people who have seen you on your way here are right. You are very reserved. You haven’t said twenty words altogether since you came in. You let nothing of your thoughts be seen in your face either.”

“I have been listening, Madame,” said Razumov, using French for the first time, hesitatingly, not being certain of his accent. But it seemed 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 say something.

“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 sofa.

“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 universal?”

“Listen to this, young man.” Peter Ivanovitch made himself heard solemnly. “Effective and universal.”

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 reminding tone — -


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 extirpated.”

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 me.”

“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.

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 calmness —

“What is it you see? Anything resembling me?”

She moved her rigidly set face from left to right, negatively.

“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?”

“No. Living.”

“A friend?”


“An enemy?”

“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 —

“Au revoir!”

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 them —

“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 whiteness.

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 spiritualist.”

Peter Ivanovitch shook his head slightly, very serious.

“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.

“Say — children.”

“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 superiority.

“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! 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 sound.

“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 attitude.

“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 resistance?”

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 him.

“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 to do.”

“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 the cat.

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 jerked out.

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 her?”

“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 me — disillusioned! Disillusioned!”

“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 disillusioned?”

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 mouth.

“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.

“Then — alone?”

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 pathetic devotion.

“Can we be seen from the house?” asked Razumov confidentially.

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?”

She nodded.

“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 her curiously.

“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 shoulders.

“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 what?”

“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 independent existence.

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 stable.

Chapter 3

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 manly hand-grasp.

“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 day.”

She waited, with her black eyes fixed on his face. Then —

“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 Razumov.

“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 point-blank.

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 afterwards.

“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 smile.

“Am I expected then to have love as well as convictions?”

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 here.”

“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 likely.”

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 discovery.”

“What’s that?”

“Why — my lack of love for....”

“Oh! That’s between ourselves,” she interrupted, it was hard to say whether in jest or earnest.

“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 quickly.

“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 believe it.”

“And is it to Peter Ivanovitch that you owe that faith?”

She did not answer the question, and they stood idle, silent, as if reluctant to part with each other.

“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 Razumov indifferently.

“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 asked unexpectedly.

“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 her eyebrows.

“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 tired, Razumov.”

“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! indeed — you are.”

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 freedom.

“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, Razumov.”

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 road.

“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 one sick.”

“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 than rot.”

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 betraying himself.

“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 the 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 nonsense.”

“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 own life.”

“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 slightly.

“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 gate here?”

“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 —

“You mean — Russia?”

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 that, Razumov.”

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 prolonged silence.

“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 the University?”

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 it?”

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 you ask?”

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 had heard.

“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 there.”

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 of impatience.

“I went home. Straight home to my rooms,” he said distinctly.

“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 fellow!

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 silence.

“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 live-long day.”

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 tremor.

“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 was gone.

“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 seldom true to the settled type. All revolt is the expression of strong individualism — ran his thought vaguely. One can tell them a mile off in any society, in any surroundings. It was astonishing that the police....

“We shall not meet again very soon, I think,” she was saying. “I am leaving to-morrow.”

“For Zurich?” Razumov asked casually, but feeling relieved, not from any distinct apprehension, but from a feeling of stress as if after a wrestling match.

“Yes, Zurich — and farther on, perhaps, much farther. Another journey. When I think of all my journeys! The last must come some day. Never mind, Razumov. We had to have a good long talk. I would have certainly tried to see you if we had not met. Peter Ivanovitch knows where you live? Yes. I meant to have asked him — but it’s better like this. You see, we expect two more men; and I had much rather wait here talking with you than up there at the house with....”

Having cast a glance beyond the gate, she interrupted herself. “Here they are,” she said rapidly. “Well, Kirylo Sidorovitch, we shall have to say good-bye, presently.”

Chapter 4

In his incertitude of the ground on which he stood Razumov felt perturbed. Turning his head quickly, he saw two men on the opposite side of the road. Seeing themselves noticed by Sophia Antonovna, they crossed over at once, and passed one after another through the little gate by the side of the empty lodge. They looked hard at the stranger, but without mistrust, the crimson blouse being a flaring safety signal. The first, great white hairless face, double chin, prominent stomach, which he seemed to carry forward consciously within a strongly distended overcoat, only nodded and averted his eyes peevishly; his companion — lean, flushed cheekbones, a military red moustache below a sharp, salient nose — approached at once Sophia Antonovna, greeting her warmly. His voice was very strong but inarticulate. It sounded like a deep buzzing. The woman revolutionist was quietly cordial.

“This is Razumov,” she announced in a clear voice.

The lean new-comer made an eager half-turn. “He will want to embrace me,” thought our young man with a deep recoil of all his being, while his limbs seemed too heavy to move. But it was a groundless alarm. He had to do now with a generation of conspirators who did not kiss each other on both cheeks; and raising an arm that felt like lead he dropped his hand into a largely-outstretched palm, fleshless and hot as if dried up by fever, giving a bony pressure, expressive, seeming to say, “Between us there’s no need of words.” The man had big, wide-open eyes. Razumov fancied he could see a smile behind their sadness.

“This is Razumov,” Sophia Antonovna repeated loudly for the benefit of the fat man, who at some distance displayed the profile of his stomach.

No one moved. Everything, sounds, attitudes, movements, and immobility seemed to be part of an experiment, the result of which was a thin voice piping with comic peevishness —

“Oh yes! Razumov. We have been hearing of nothing but Mr. Razumov for months. For my part, I confess I would rather have seen Haldin on this spot instead of Mr. Razumov.”

The squeaky stress put on the name “Razumov — Mr. Razumov” pierced the ear ridiculously, like the falsetto of a circus clown beginning an elaborate joke. Astonishment was Razumov’s first response, followed by sudden indignation.

“What’s the meaning of this?” he asked in a stern tone.

“Tut! Silliness. He’s always like that.” Sophia Antonovna was obviously vexed. But she dropped the information, “Necator,” from her lips just loud enough to be heard by Razumov. The abrupt squeaks of the fat man seemed to proceed from that thing like a balloon he carried under his overcoat. The stolidity of his attitude, the big feet, the lifeless, hanging hands, the enormous bloodless cheek, the thin wisps of hair straggling down the fat nape of the neck, fascinated Razumov into a stare on the verge of horror and laughter.

Nikita, surnamed Necator, with a sinister aptness of alliteration! Razumov had heard of him. He had heard so much since crossing the frontier of these celebrities of the militant revolution; the legends, the stories, the authentic chronicle, which now and then peeps out before a half-incredulous world. Razumov had heard of him. He was supposed to have killed more, gendarmes and police agents than any revolutionist living. He had been entrusted with executions.

The paper with the letters N.N., the very pseudonym of murder, found pinned on the stabbed breast of a certain notorious spy (this picturesque detail of a sensational murder case had got into the newspapers), was the mark of his handiwork. “By order of the Committee. — N.N.” A corner of the curtain lifted to strike the imagination of the gaping world. He was said to have been innumerable times in and out of Russia, the Necator of bureaucrats, of provincial governors, of obscure informers. He lived between whiles, Razumov had heard, on the shores of the Lake of Como, with a charming wife, devoted to the cause, and two young children. But how could that creature, so grotesque as to set town dogs barking at its mere sight, go about on those deadly errands and slip through the meshes of the police?

“What now? what now?” the voice squeaked. “I am only sincere. It’s not denied that the other was the leading spirit. Well, it would have been better if he had been the one spared to us. More useful. I am not a sentimentalist. Say what I think...only natural.”

Squeak, squeak, squeak, without a gesture, without a stir — the horrible squeaky burlesque of professional jealousy — this man of a sinister alliterative nickname, this executioner of revolutionary verdicts, the terrifying N.N. exasperated like a fashionable tenor by the attention attracted to the performance of an obscure amateur. Sophia Antonovna shrugged her shoulders. The comrade with the martial red moustache hurried towards Razumov full of conciliatory intentions in his strong buzzing voice.

“Devil take it! And in this place, too, in the public street, so to speak. But you can see yourself how it is. One of his fantastic sallies. Absolutely of no consequence.”

“Pray don’t concern yourself,” cried Razumov, going off into a long fit of laughter. “Don’t mention it.”

The other, his hectic flush like a pair of burns on his cheek-bones, stared for a moment and burst out laughing too. Razumov, whose hilarity died out all at once, made a step forward.

“Enough of this,” he began in a clear, incisive voice, though he could hardly control the trembling of his legs. “I will have no more of it. I shall not permit anyone.... I can see very well what you are at with those allusions.... Inquire, investigate! I defy you, but I will not be played with.”

He had spoken such words before. He had been driven to cry them out in the face of other suspicions. It was an infernal cycle bringing round that protest like a fatal necessity of his existence. But it was no use. He would be always played with. Luckily life does not last for ever.

“I won’t have it!” he shouted, striking his fist into the palm of his other hand.

“Kirylo Sidorovitch — what has come to you?” The woman revolutionist interfered with authority. They were all looking at Razumov now; the slayer of spies and gendarmes had turned about, presenting his enormous stomach in full, like a shield.

“Don’t shout. There are people passing.” Sophia Antonovna was apprehensive of another outburst. A steam-launch from Monrepos had come to the landing-stage opposite the gate, its hoarse whistle and the churning noise alongside all unnoticed, had landed a small bunch of local passengers who were dispersing their several ways. Only a specimen of early tourist in knickerbockers, conspicuous by a brand-new yellow leather glass-case, hung about for a moment, scenting something unusual about these four people within the rusty iron gates of what looked the grounds run wild of an unoccupied private house. Ah! If he had only known what the chance of commonplace travelling had suddenly put in his way! But he was a well-bred person; he averted his gaze and moved off with short steps along the avenue, on the watch for a tramcar.

A gesture from Sophia Antonovna, “Leave him to me,” had sent the two men away — the buzzing of the inarticulate voice growing fainter and fainter, and the thin pipe of “What now? what’s the matter?” reduced to the proportions of a squeaking toy by the distance. They had left him to her. So many things could be left safely to the experience of Sophia Antonovna. And at once, her black eyes turned to Razumov, her mind tried to get at the heart of that outburst. It had some meaning. No one is born an active revolutionist. The change comes disturbingly, with the force of a sudden vocation, bringing in its train agonizing doubts, assertive violences, an unstable state of the soul, till the final appeasement of the convert in the perfect fierceness of conviction. She had seen — often had only divined — scores of these young men and young women going through an emotional crisis. This young man looked like a moody egotist. And besides, it was a special — a unique case. She had never met an individuality which interested and puzzled her so much.

“Take care, Razumov, my good friend. If you carry on like this you will go mad. You are angry with everybody and bitter with yourself, and on the look out for something to torment yourself with.”

“It’s intolerable!” Razumov could only speak in gasps. “You must admit that I can have no illusions on the attitude which...it isn’t clear...or rather only too clear.”

He made a gesture of despair. It was not his courage that failed him. The choking fumes of falsehood had taken him by the throat — the thought of being condemned to struggle on and on in that tainted atmosphere without the hope of ever renewing his strength by a breath of fresh air.

“A glass of cold water is what you want.” Sophia Antonovna glanced up the grounds at the house and shook her head, then out of the gate at the brimful placidity of the lake. With a half-comical shrug of the shoulders, she gave the remedy up in the face of that abundance.

“It is you, my dear soul, who are flinging yourself at something which does not exist. What is it? Self-reproach, or what? It’s absurd. You couldn’t have gone and given yourself up because your comrade was taken.”

She remonstrated with him reasonably, at some length too. He had nothing to complain of in his reception. Every new-comer was discussed more or less. Everybody had to be thoroughly understood before being accepted. No one that she could remember had been shown from the first so much confidence. Soon, very soon, perhaps sooner than he expected, he would be given an opportunity of showing his devotion to the sacred task of crushing the Infamy.

Razumov, listening quietly, thought: “It may be that she is trying to lull my suspicions to sleep. On the other hand, it is obvious that most of them are fools.” He moved aside a couple of paces and, folding his arms on his breast, leaned back against the stone pillar of the gate.

“As to what remains obscure in the fate of that poor Haldin,” Sophia Antonovna dropped into a slowness of utterance which was to Razumov like the falling of molten lead drop by drop; “as to that — though no one ever hinted that either from fear or neglect your conduct has not been what it should have been — well, I have a bit of intelligence....”

Razumov could not prevent himself from raising his head, and Sophia Antonovna nodded slightly.

“I have. You remember that letter from St. Petersburg I mentioned to you a moment ago?”

“The letter? Perfectly. Some busybody has been reporting my conduct on a certain day. It’s rather sickening. I suppose our police are greatly edified when they open these interesting and — and — superfluous letters.”

“Oh dear no! The police do not get hold of our letters as easily as you imagine. The letter in question did not leave St. Petersburg till the ice broke up. It went by the first English steamer which left the Neva this spring. They have a fireman on board — one of us, in fact. It has reached me from Hull....”

She paused as if she were surprised at the sullen fixity of Razumov’s gaze, but went on at once, and much faster.

“We have some of our people there who...but never mind. The writer of the letter relates an incident which he thinks may possibly be connected with Haldin’s arrest. I was just going to tell you when those two men came along.”

“That also was an incident,” muttered Razumov, “of a very charming kind — for me.”

“Leave off that!” cried Sophia Antonovna. “Nobody cares for Nikita’s barking. There’s no malice in him. Listen to what I have to say. You may be able to throw a light. There was in St. Petersburg a sort of town peasant — a man who owned horses. He came to town years ago to work for some relation as a driver and ended by owning a cab or two.”

She might well have spared herself the slight effort of the gesture: “Wait!” Razumov did not mean to speak; he could not have interrupted her now, not to save his life. The contraction of his facial muscles had been involuntary, a mere surface stir, leaving him sullenly attentive as before.

“He was not a quite ordinary man of his class — it seems,” she went on. “The people of the house — my informant talked with many of them — you know, one of those enormous houses of shame and misery....”

Sophia Antonovna need not have enlarged on the character of the house. Razumov saw clearly, towering at her back, a dark mass of masonry veiled in snowflakes, with the long row of windows of the eating-shop shining greasily very near the ground. The ghost of that night pursued him. He stood up to it with rage and with weariness.

“Did the late Haldin ever by chance speak to you of that house?” Sophia Antonovna was anxious to know.

“Yes.” Razumov, making that answer, wondered whether he were falling into a trap. It was so humiliating to lie to these people that he probably could not have said no. “He mentioned to me once,” he added, as if making an effort of memory, “a house of that sort. He used to visit some workmen there.”


Sophia Antonovna triumphed. Her correspondent had discovered that fact quite accidentally from the talk of the people of the house, having made friends with a workman who occupied a room there. They described Haldin’s appearance perfectly. He brought comforting words of hope into their misery. He came irregularly, but he came very often, and — her correspondent wrote — sometimes he spent a night in the house, sleeping, they thought, in a stable which opened upon the inner yard.

“Note that, Razumov! In a stable.”

Razumov had listened with a sort of ferocious but amused acquiescence.

“Yes. In the straw. It was probably the cleanest spot in the whole house.”

“No doubt,” assented the woman with that deep frown which seemed to draw closer together her black eyes in a sinister fashion. No four-footed beast could stand the filth and wretchedness so many human beings were condemned to suffer from in Russia. The point of this discovery was that it proved Haldin to have been familiar with that horse-owning peasant — a reckless, independent, free-living fellow not much liked by the other inhabitants of the house. He was believed to have been the associate of a band of housebreakers. Some of these got captured. Not while he was driving them, however; but still there was a suspicion against the fellow of having given a hint to the police and...

The woman revolutionist checked herself suddenly.

“And you? Have you ever heard your friend refer to a certain Ziemianitch?”

Razumov was ready for the name. He had been looking out for the question. “When it comes I shall own up,” he had said to himself. But he took his time.

“To be sure!” he began slowly. “Ziemianitch, a peasant owning a team of horses. Yes. On one occasion. Ziemianitch! Certainly! Ziemianitch of the horses.... How could it have slipped my memory like this? One of the last conversations we had together.”

“That means,” — Sophia Antonovna looked very grave, — ”that means, Razumov, it was very shortly before — eh?”

“Before what?” shouted Razumov, advancing at the woman, who looked astonished but stood her ground. “Before.... Oh! Of course, it was before! How could it have been after? Only a few hours before.”

“And he spoke of him favourably?”

“With enthusiasm! The horses of Ziemianitch! The free soul of Ziemianitch!”

Razumov took a savage delight in the loud utterance of that name, which had never before crossed his lips audibly. He fixed his blazing eyes on the woman till at last her fascinated expression recalled him to himself.

“The late Haldin,” he said, holding himself in, with downcast eyes, “was inclined to take sudden fancies to people, on — on — what shall I say — insufficient grounds.”

“There!” Sophia Antonovna clapped her hands. “That, to my mind, settles it. The suspicions of my correspondent were aroused....”

“Aha! Your correspondent,” Razumov said in an almost openly mocking tone. “What suspicions? How aroused? By this Ziemianitch? Probably some drunken, gabbling, plausible...”

“You talk as if you had known him.”

Razumov looked up.

“No. But I knew Haldin.”

Sophia Antonovna nodded gravely.

“I see. Every word you say confirms to my mind the suspicion communicated to me in that very interesting letter. This Ziemianitch was found one morning hanging from a hook in the stable — dead.”

Razumov felt a profound trouble. It was visible, because Sophia Antonovna was moved to observe vivaciously —

“Aha! You begin to see.”

He saw it clearly enough — in the light of a lantern casting spokes of shadow in a cellar-like stable, the body in a sheepskin coat and long boots hanging against the wall. A pointed hood, with the ends wound about up to the eyes, hid the face. “But that does not concern me,” he reflected. “It does not affect my position at all. He never knew who had thrashed him. He could not have known.” Razumov felt sorry for the old lover of the bottle and women.

“Yes. Some of them end like that,” he muttered. “What is your idea, Sophia Antonovna?”

It was really the idea of her correspondent, but Sophia Antonovna had adopted it fully. She stated it in one word — ”Remorse.” Razumov opened his eyes very wide at that. Sophia Antonovna’s informant, by listening to the talk of the house, by putting this and that together, had managed to come very near to the truth of Haldin’s relation to Ziemianitch.

“It is I who can tell you what you were not certain of — that your friend had some plan for saving himself afterwards, for getting out of St. Petersburg, at any rate. Perhaps that and no more, trusting to luck for the rest. And that fellow’s horses were part of the plan.”

“They have actually got at the truth,” Razumov marvelled to himself, while he nodded judicially. “Yes, that’s possible, very possible.” But the woman revolutionist was very positive that it was so. First of all, a conversation about horses between Haldin and Ziemianitch had been partly overheard. Then there were the suspicions of the people in the house when their “young gentleman” (they did not know Haldin by his name) ceased to call at the house. Some of them used to charge Ziemianitch with knowing something of this absence. He denied it with exasperation; but the fact was that ever since Haldin’s disappearance he was not himself, growing moody and thin. Finally, during a quarrel with some woman (to whom he was making up), in which most of the inmates of the house took part apparently, he was openly abused by his chief enemy, an athletic pedlar, for an informer, and for having driven “our young gentleman to Siberia, the same as you did those young fellows who broke into houses.” In consequence of this there was a fight, and Ziemianitch got flung down a flight of stairs. Thereupon he drank and moped for a week, and then hanged himself.

Sophia Antonovna drew her conclusions from the tale. She charged Ziemianitch either with drunken indiscretion as to a driving job on a certain date, overheard by some spy in some low grog-shop — perhaps in the very eating-shop on the ground floor of the house — or, maybe, a downright denunciation, followed by remorse. A man like that would be capable of anything. People said he was a flighty old chap. And if he had been once before mixed up with the police — as seemed certain, though he always denied it — in connexion with these thieves, he would be sure to be acquainted with some police underlings, always on the look out for something to report. Possibly at first his tale was not made anything of till the day that scoundrel de P — - got his deserts. Ah! But then every bit and scrap of hint and information would be acted on, and fatally they were bound to get Haldin.

Sophia Antonovna spread out her hands — ”Fatally.”

Fatality — chance! Razumov meditated in silent astonishment upon the queer verisimilitude of these inferences. They were obviously to his advantage.

“It is right now to make this conclusive evidence known generally.” Sophia Antonovna was very calm and deliberate again. She had received the letter three days ago, but did not write at once to Peter Ivanovitch. She knew then that she would have the opportunity presently of meeting several men of action assembled for an important purpose.

“I thought it would be more effective if I could show the letter itself at large. I have it in my pocket now. You understand how pleased I was to come upon you.”

Razumov was saying to himself, “She won’t offer to show the letter to me. Not likely. Has she told me everything that correspondent of hers has found out?” He longed to see the letter, but he felt he must not ask.

“Tell me, please, was this an investigation ordered, as it were?”

“No, no,” she protested. “There you are again with your sensitiveness. It makes you stupid. Don’t you see, there was no starting-point for an investigation even if any one had thought of it. A perfect blank! That’s exactly what some people were pointing out as the reason for receiving you cautiously. It was all perfectly accidental, arising from my informant striking an acquaintance with an intelligent skindresser lodging in that particular slum-house. A wonderful coincidence!”

“A pious person,” suggested Razumov, with a pale smile, “would say that the hand of God has done it all.”

“My poor father would have said that.” Sophia Antonovna did not smile. She dropped her eyes. “Not that his God ever helped him. It’s a long time since God has done anything for the people. Anyway, it’s done.”

“All this would be quite final,” said Razumov, with every appearance of reflective impartiality, “if there was any certitude that the ‘our young gentleman’ of these people was Victor Haldin. Have we got that?”

“Yes. There’s no mistake. My correspondent was as familiar with Haldin’s personal appearance as with your own,” the woman affirmed decisively.

“It’s the red-nosed fellow beyond a doubt,” Razumov said to himself, with reawakened uneasiness. Had his own visit to that accursed house passed unnoticed? It was barely possible. Yet it was hardly probable. It was just the right sort of food for the popular gossip that gaunt busybody had been picking up. But the letter did not seem to contain any allusion to that. Unless she had suppressed it. And, if so, why? If it had really escaped the prying of that hunger-stricken democrat with a confounded genius for recognizing people from description, it could only be for a time. He would come upon it presently and hasten to write another letter — and then!

For all the envenomed recklessness of his temper, fed on hate and disdain, Razumov shuddered inwardly. It guarded him from common fear, but it could not defend him from disgust at being dealt with in any way by these people. It was a sort of superstitious dread. Now, since his position had been made more secure by their own folly at the cost of Ziemianitch, he felt the need of perfect safety, with its freedom from direct lying, with its power of moving amongst them silent, unquestioning, listening, impenetrable, like the very fate of their crimes and their folly. Was this advantage his already? Or not yet? Or never would be?

“Well, Sophia Antonovna,” his air of reluctant concession was genuine in so far that he was really loath to part with her without testing her sincerity by a question it was impossible to bring about in any way; “well, Sophia Antonovna, if that is so, then — ”

“The creature has done justice to himself,” the woman observed, as if thinking aloud.

“What? Ah yes! Remorse,” Razumov muttered, with equivocal contempt.

“Don’t be harsh, Kirylo Sidorovitch, if you have lost a friend.” There was no hint of softness in her tone, only the black glitter of her eyes seemed detached for an instant from vengeful visions. “He was a man of the people. The simple Russian soul is never wholly impenitent. It’s something to know that.”

“Consoling?” insinuated Razumov, in a tone of inquiry.

“Leave off railing,” she checked him explosively. “Remember, Razumov, that women, children, and revolutionists hate irony, which is the negation of all saving instincts, of all faith, of all devotion, of all action. Don’t rail! Leave off.... I don’t know how it is, but there are moments when you are abhorrent to me....”

She averted her face. A languid silence, as if all the electricity of the situation had been discharged in this flash of passion, lasted for some time. Razumov had not flinched. Suddenly she laid the tips of her fingers on his sleeve.

“Don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind,” he said very quietly.

He was proud to feel that she could read nothing on his face. He was really mollified, relieved, if only for a moment, from an obscure oppression. And suddenly he asked himself, “Why the devil did I go to that house? It was an imbecile thing to do.”

A profound disgust came over him. Sophia Antonovna lingered, talking in a friendly manner with an evident conciliatory intention. And it was still about the famous letter, referring to various minute details given by her informant, who had never seen Ziemianitch. The “victim of remorse” had been buried several weeks before her correspondent began frequenting the house. It — the house — contained very good revolutionary material. The spirit of the heroic Haldin had passed through these dens of black wretchedness with a promise of universal redemption from all the miseries that oppress mankind. Razumov listened without hearing, gnawed by the newborn desire of safety with its independence from that degrading method of direct lying which at times he found it almost impossible to practice.

No. The point he wanted to hear about could never come into this conversation. There was no way of bringing it forward. He regretted not having composed a perfect story for use abroad, in which his fatal connexion with the house might have been owned up to. But when he left Russia he did not know that Ziemianitch had hanged himself. And, anyway, who could have foreseen this woman’s “informant” stumbling upon that particular slum, of all the slums awaiting destruction in the purifying flame of social revolution? Who could have foreseen? Nobody! “It’s a perfect, diabolic surprise,” thought Razumov, calm-faced in his attitude of inscrutable superiority, nodding assent to Sophia Antonovna’s remarks upon the psychology of “the people,” “Oh yes — certainly,” rather coldly, but with a nervous longing in his fingers to tear some sort of confession out of her throat.

Then, at the very last, on the point of separating, the feeling of relaxed tension already upon him, he heard Sophia Antonovna allude to the subject of his uneasiness. How it came about he could only guess, his mind being absent at the moment, but it must have sprung from Sophia Antonovna’s complaints of the illogical absurdity of the people. For instance — that Ziemianitch was notoriously irreligious, and yet, in the last weeks of his life, he suffered from the notion that he had been beaten by the devil.

“The devil,” repeated Razumov, as though he had not heard aright.

“The actual devil. The devil in person. You may well look astonished, Kirylo Sidorovitch. Early on the very night poor Haldin was taken, a complete stranger turned up and gave Ziemianitch a most fearful thrashing while he was lying dead-drunk in the stable. The wretched creature’s body was one mass of bruises. He showed them to the people in the house.”

“But you, Sophia Antonovna, you don’t believe in the actual devil?”

“Do you?” retorted the woman curtly. “Not but that there are plenty of men worse than devils to make a hell of this earth,” she muttered to herself.

Razumov watched her, vigorous and white-haired, with the deep fold between her thin eyebrows, and her black glance turned idly away. It was obvious that she did not make much of the story — unless, indeed, this was the perfection of duplicity. “A dark young man,” she explained further. “Never seen there before, never seen afterwards. Why are you smiling, Razumov?”

“At the devil being still young after all these ages,” he answered composedly. “But who was able to describe him, since the victim, you say, was dead-drunk at the time?”

“Oh! The eating-house keeper has described him. An overbearing, swarthy young man in a student’s cloak, who came rushing in, demanded Ziemianitch, beat him furiously, and rushed away without a word, leaving the eating-house keeper paralysed with astonishment.”

“Does he, too, believe it was the devil?”

“That I can’t say. I am told he’s very reserved on the matter. Those sellers of spirits are great scoundrels generally. I should think he knows more of it than anybody.”

“Well, and you, Sophia Antonovna, what’s your theory?” asked Razumov in a tone of great interest. “Yours and your informant’s, who is on the spot.”

“I agree with him. Some police-hound in disguise. Who else could beat a helpless man so unmercifully? As for the rest, if they were out that day on every trail, old and new, it is probable enough that they might have thought it just as well to have Ziemianitch at hand for more information, or for identification, or what not. Some scoundrelly detective was sent to fetch him along, and being vexed at finding him so drunk broke a stable fork over his ribs. Later on, after they had the big game safe in the net, they troubled their heads no more about that peasant.”

Such were the last words of the woman revolutionist in this conversation, keeping so close to the truth, departing from it so far in the verisimilitude of thoughts and conclusions as to give one the notion of the invincible nature of human error, a glimpse into the utmost depths of self-deception. Razumov, after shaking hands with Sophia Antonovna, left the grounds, crossed the road, and walking out on the little steamboat pier leaned over the rail.

His mind was at ease; ease such as he had not known for many days, ever since that night...the night. The conversation with the woman revolutionist had given him the view of his danger at the very moment this danger vanished, characteristically enough. “I ought to have foreseen the doubts that would arise in those people’s minds,” he thought. Then his attention being attracted by a stone of peculiar shape, which he could see clearly lying at the bottom, he began to speculate as to the depth of water in that spot. But very soon, with a start of wonder at this extraordinary instance of ill-timed detachment, he returned to his train of thought. “I ought to have told very circumstantial lies from the first,” he said to himself, with a mortal distaste of the mere idea which silenced his mental utterance for quite a perceptible interval. “Luckily, that’s all right now,” he reflected, and after a time spoke to himself, half aloud, “Thanks to the devil,” and laughed a little.

The end of Ziemianitch then arrested his wandering thoughts. He was not exactly amused at the interpretation, but he could not help detecting in it a certain piquancy. He owned to himself that, had he known of that suicide before leaving Russia, he would have been incapable of making such excellent use of it for his own purposes. He ought to be infinitely obliged to the fellow with the red nose for his patience and ingenuity, “A wonderful psychologist apparently,” he said to himself sarcastically. Remorse, indeed! It was a striking example of your true conspirator’s blindness, of the stupid subtlety of people with one idea. This was a drama of love, not of conscience, Razumov continued to himself mockingly. A woman the old fellow was making up to! A robust pedlar, clearly a rival, throwing him down a flight of stairs.... And at sixty, for a lifelong lover, it was not an easy matter to get over. That was a feminist of a different stamp from Peter Ivanovitch. Even the comfort of the bottle might conceivably fail him in this supreme crisis. At such an age nothing but a halter could cure the pangs of an unquenchable passion. And, besides, there was the wild exasperation aroused by the unjust aspersions and the contumely of the house, with the maddening impossibility to account for that mysterious thrashing, added to these simple and bitter sorrows. “Devil, eh?” Razumov exclaimed, with mental excitement, as if he had made an interesting discovery. “Ziemianitch ended by falling into mysticism. So many of our true Russian souls end in that way! Very characteristic.” He felt pity for Ziemianitch, a large neutral pity, such as one may feel for an unconscious multitude, a great people seen from above — like a community of crawling ants working out its destiny. It was as if this Ziemianitch could not possibly have done anything else. And Sophia Antonovna’s cocksure and contemptuous “some police-hound” was characteristically Russian in another way. But there was no tragedy there. This was a comedy of errors. It was as if the devil himself were playing a game with all of them in turn. First with him, then with Ziemianitch, then with those revolutionists. The devil’s own game this.... He interrupted his earnest mental soliloquy with a jocular thought at his own expense. “Hallo! I am falling into mysticism too.”

His mind was more at ease than ever. Turning about he put his back against the rail comfortably. “All this fits with marvellous aptness,” he continued to think. “The brilliance of my reputed exploit is no longer darkened by the fate of my supposed colleague. The mystic Ziemianitch accounts for that. An incredible chance has served me. No more need of lies. I shall have only to listen and to keep my scorn from getting the upper hand of my caution.”

He sighed, folded his arms, his chin dropped on his breast, and it was a long time before he started forward from that pose, with the recollection that he had made up his mind to do something important that day. What it was he could not immediately recall, yet he made no effort of memory, for he was uneasily certain that he would remember presently.

He had not gone more than a hundred yards towards the town when he slowed down, almost faltered in his walk, at the sight of a figure walking in the contrary direction, draped in a cloak, under a soft, broad-brimmed hat, picturesque but diminutive, as if seen through the big end of an opera-glass. It was impossible to avoid that tiny man, for there was no issue for retreat.

“Another one going to that mysterious meeting,” thought Razumov. He was right in his surmise, only this one, unlike the others who came from a distance, was known to him personally. Still, he hoped to pass on with a mere bow, but it was impossible to ignore the little thin hand with hairy wrist and knuckles protruded in a friendly wave from under the folds of the cloak, worn Spanish-wise, in disregard of a fairly warm day, a corner flung over the shoulder.

“And how is Herr Razumov?” sounded the greeting in German, by that alone made more odious to the object of the affable recognition. At closer quarters the diminutive personage looked like a reduction of an ordinary-sized man, with a lofty brow bared for a moment by the raising of the hat, the great pepper-and salt full beard spread over the proportionally broad chest. A fine bold nose jutted over a thin mouth hidden in the mass of fine hair. All this, accented features, strong limbs in their relative smallness, appeared delicate without the slightest sign of debility. The eyes alone, almond-shaped and brown, were too big, with the whites slightly bloodshot by much pen labour under a lamp. The obscure celebrity of the tiny man was well known to Razumov. Polyglot, of unknown parentage, of indefinite nationality, anarchist, with a pedantic and ferocious temperament, and an amazingly inflammatory capacity for invective, he was a power in the background, this violent pamphleteer clamouring for revolutionary justice, this Julius Laspara, editor of the Living Word, confidant of conspirators, inditer of sanguinary menaces and manifestos, suspected of being in the secret of every plot. Laspara lived in the old town in a sombre, narrow house presented to him by a naive middle-class admirer of his humanitarian eloquence. With him lived his two daughters, who overtopped him head and shoulders, and a pasty-faced, lean boy of six, languishing in the dark rooms in blue cotton overalls and clumsy boots, who might have belonged to either one of them or to neither. No stranger could tell. Julius Laspara no doubt knew which of his girls it was who, after casually vanishing for a few years, had as casually returned to him possessed of that child; but, with admirable pedantry, he had refrained from asking her for details — no, not so much as the name of the father, because maternity should be an anarchist function. Razumov had been admitted twice to that suite of several small dark rooms on the top floor: dusty window-panes, litter of all sorts of sweepings all over the place, half-full glasses of tea forgotten on every table, the two Laspara daughters prowling about enigmatically silent, sleepy-eyed, corsetless, and generally, in their want of shape and the disorder of their rumpled attire, resembling old dolls; the great but obscure Julius, his feet twisted round his three-legged stool, always ready to receive the visitors, the pen instantly dropped, the body screwed round with a striking display of the lofty brow and of the great austere beard. When he got down from his stool it was as though he had descended from the heights of Olympus. He was dwarfed by his daughters, by the furniture, by any caller of ordinary stature. But he very seldom left it, and still more rarely was seen walking in broad daylight.

It must have been some matter of serious importance which had driven him out in that direction that afternoon. Evidently he wished to be amiable to that young man whose arrival had made some sensation in the world of political refugees. In Russian now, which he spoke, as he spoke and wrote four or five other European languages, without distinction and without force (other than that of invective), he inquired if Razumov had taken his inscriptions at the University as yet. And the young man, shaking his head negatively —

“There’s plenty of time for that. But, meantime, are you not going to write something for us?”

He could not understand how any one could refrain from writing on anything, social, economic, historical — anything. Any subject could be treated in the right spirit, and for the ends of social revolution. And, as it happened, a friend of his in London had got in touch with a review of advanced ideas. “We must educate, educate everybody — develop the great thought of absolute liberty and of revolutionary justice.”

Razumov muttered rather surlily that he did not even know English.

“Write in Russian. We’ll have it translated There can be no difficulty. Why, without seeking further, there is Miss Haldin. My daughters go to see her sometimes.” He nodded significantly. “She does nothing, has never done anything in her life. She would be quite competent, with a little assistance. Only write. You know you must. And so good-bye for the present.”

He raised his arm and went on. Razumov backed against the low wall, looked after him, spat violently, and went on his way with an angry mutter —

“Cursed Jew!”

He did not know anything about it. Julius Laspara might have been a Transylvanian, a Turk, an Andalusian, or a citizen of one of the Hanse towns for anything he could tell to the contrary. But this is not a story of the West, and this exclamation must be recorded, accompanied by the comment that it was merely an expression of hate and contempt, best adapted to the nature of the feelings Razumov suffered from at the time. He was boiling with rage, as though he had been grossly insulted. He walked as if blind, following instinctively the shore of the diminutive harbour along the quay, through a pretty, dull garden, where dull people sat on chairs under the trees, till, his fury abandoning him, he discovered himself in the middle of a long, broad bridge. He slowed down at once. To his right, beyond the toy-like jetties, he saw the green slopes framing the Petit Lac in all the marvellous banality of the picturesque made of painted cardboard, with the more distant stretch of water inanimate and shining like a piece of tin.

He turned his head away from that view for the tourists, and walked on slowly, his eyes fixed on the ground. One or two persons had to get out of his way, and then turned round to give a surprised stare to his profound absorption. The insistence of the celebrated subversive journalist rankled in his mind strangely. Write. Must write! He! Write! A sudden light flashed upon him. To write was the very thing he had made up his mind to do that day. He had made up his mind irrevocably to that step and then had forgotten all about it. That incorrigible tendency to escape from the grip of the situation was fraught with serious danger. He was ready to despise himself for it. What was it? Levity, or deep-seated weakness? Or an unconscious dread?

“Is it that I am shrinking? It can’t be! It’s impossible. To shrink now would be worse than moral suicide; it would be nothing less than moral damnation,” he thought. “Is it possible that I have a conventional conscience?”

He rejected that hypothesis with scorn, and, checked on the edge of the pavement, made ready to cross the road and proceed up the wide street facing the head of the bridge; and that for no other reason except that it was there before him. But at the moment a couple of carriages and a slow-moving cart interposed, and suddenly he turned sharp to the left, following the quay again, but now away from the lake.

“It may be just my health,” he thought, allowing himself a very unusual doubt of his soundness; for, with the exception of a childish ailment or two, he had never been ill in his life. But that was a danger, too. Only, it seemed as though he were being looked after in a specially remarkable way. “If I believed in an active Providence,” Razumov said to himself, amused grimly, “I would see here the working of an ironical finger. To have a Julius Laspara put in my way as if expressly to remind me of my purpose is — Write, he had said. I must write — I must, indeed! I shall write — never fear. Certainly. That’s why I am here. And for the future I shall have something to write about.”

He was exciting himself by this mental soliloquy. But the idea of writing evoked the thought of a place to write in, of shelter, of privacy, and naturally of his lodgings, mingled with a distaste for the necessary exertion of getting there, with a mistrust as of some hostile influence awaiting him within those odious four walls.

“Suppose one of these revolutionists,” he asked himself, “were to take a fancy to call on me while I am writing?” The mere prospect of such an interruption made him shudder. One could lock one’s door, or ask the tobacconist downstairs (some sort of a refugee himself) to tell inquirers that one was not in. Not very good precautions those. The manner of his life, he felt, must be kept clear of every cause for suspicion or even occasion for wonder, down to such trifling occurrences as a delay in opening a locked door. “I wish I were in the middle of some field miles away from everywhere,” he thought.

He had unconsciously turned to the left once more and now was aware of being on a bridge again. This one was much narrower than the other, and instead of being straight, made a sort of elbow or angle. At the point of that angle a short arm joined it to a hexagonal islet with a soil of gravel and its shores faced with dressed stone, a perfection of puerile neatness. A couple of tall poplars and a few other trees stood grouped on the clean, dark gravel, and under them a few garden benches and a bronze effigy of Jean Jacques Rousseau seated on its pedestal.

On setting his foot on it Razumov became aware that, except for the woman in charge of the refreshment chalet, he would be alone on the island. There was something of naive, odious, and inane simplicity about that unfrequented tiny crumb of earth named after Jean Jacques Rousseau. Something pretentious and shabby, too. He asked for a glass of milk, which he drank standing, at one draught (nothing but tea had passed his lips since the morning), and was going away with a weary, lagging step when a thought stopped him short. He had found precisely what he needed. If solitude could ever be secured in the open air in the middle of a town, he would have it there on this absurd island, together with the faculty of watching the only approach.

He went back heavily to a garden seat, dropped into it. This was the place for making a beginning of that writing which had to be done. The materials he had on him. “I shall always come here,” he said to himself, and afterwards sat for quite a long time motionless, without thought and sight and hearing, almost without life. He sat long enough for the declining sun to dip behind the roofs of the town at his back, and throw the shadow of the houses on the lake front over the islet, before he pulled out of his pocket a fountain pen, opened a small notebook on his knee, and began to write quickly, raising his eyes now and then at the connecting arm of the bridge. These glances were needless; the people crossing over in the distance seemed unwilling even to look at the islet where the exiled effigy of the author of the Social Contract sat enthroned above the bowed head of Razumov in the sombre immobility of bronze. After finishing his scribbling, Razumov, with a sort of feverish haste, put away the pen, then rammed the notebook into his pocket, first tearing out the written pages with an almost convulsive brusqueness. But the folding of the flimsy batch on his knee was executed with thoughtful nicety. That done, he leaned back in his seat and remained motionless, the papers holding in his left hand. The twilight had deepened. He got up and began to pace to and fro slowly under the trees.

“There can be no doubt that now I am safe,” he thought. His fine ear could detect the faintly accentuated murmurs of the current breaking against the point of the island, and he forgot himself in listening to them with interest. But even to his acute sense of hearing the sound was too elusive.

“Extraordinary occupation I am giving myself up to,” he murmured. And it occurred to him that this was about the only sound he could listen to innocently, and for his own pleasure, as it were. Yes, the sound of water, the voice of the wind — completely foreign to human passions. All the other sounds of this earth brought contamination to the solitude of a soul.

This was Mr. Razumov’s feeling, the soul, of course, being his own, and the word being used not in the theological sense, but standing, as far as I can understand it, for that part of Mr. Razumov which was not his body, and more specially in danger from the fires of this earth. And it must be admitted that in Mr. Razumov’s case the bitterness of solitude from which he suffered was not an altogether morbid phenomenon.

Part 4

Chapter 1

That I should, at the beginning of this retrospect, mention again that Mr. Razumov’s youth had no one in the world, as literally no one as it can be honestly affirmed of any human being, is but a statement of fact from a man who believes in the psychological value of facts. There is also, perhaps, a desire of punctilious fairness. Unidentified with anyone in this narrative where the aspects of honour and shame are remote from the ideas of the Western world, and taking my stand on the ground of common humanity, it is for that very reason that I feel a strange reluctance to state baldly here what every reader has most likely already discovered himself. Such reluctance may appear absurd if it were not for the thought that because of the imperfection of language there is always something ungracious (and even disgraceful) in the exhibition of naked truth. But the time has come when Councillor of State Mikulin can no longer be ignored. His simple question “Where to?” on which we left Mr. Razumov in St. Petersburg, throws a light on the general meaning of this individual case.

“Where to?” was the answer in the form of a gentle question to what we may call Mr. Razumov’s declaration of independence. The question was not menacing in the least and, indeed, had the ring of innocent inquiry. Had it been taken in a merely topographical sense, the only answer to it would have appeared sufficiently appalling to Mr Razumov. Where to? Back to his rooms, where the Revolution had sought him out to put to a sudden test his dormant instincts, his half-conscious thoughts and almost wholly unconscious ambitions, by the touch as of some furious and dogmatic religion, with its call to frantic sacrifices, its tender resignations, its dreams and hopes uplifting the soul by the side of the most sombre moods of despair. And Mr. Razumov had let go the door-handle and had come back to the middle of the room, asking Councillor Mikulin angrily, “What do you mean by it?”

As far as I can tell, Councillor Mikulin did not answer that question. He drew Mr. Razumov into familiar conversation. It is the peculiarity of Russian natures that, however strongly engaged in the drama of action, they are still turning their ear to the murmur of abstract ideas. This conversation (and others later on) need not be recorded. Suffice it to say that it brought Mr. Razumov as we know him to the test of another faith. There was nothing official in its expression, and Mr. Razumov was led to defend his attitude of detachment. But Councillor Mikulin would have none of his arguments. “For a man like you,” were his last weighty words in the discussion, “such a position is impossible. Don’t forget that I have seen that interesting piece of paper. I understand your liberalism. I have an intellect of that kind myself. Reform for me is mainly a question of method. But the principle of revolt is a physical intoxication, a sort of hysteria which must be kept away from the masses. You agree to this without reserve, don’t you? Because, you see, Kirylo Sidorovitch, abstention, reserve, in certain situations, come very near to political crime. The ancient Greeks understood that very well.”

Mr. Razumov, listening with a faint smile, asked Councillor Mikulin point-blank if this meant that he was going to have him watched.

The high official took no offence at the cynical inquiry.

“No, Kirylo Sidorovitch,” he answered gravely. “I don’t mean to have you watched.”

Razumov, suspecting a lie, affected yet the greatest liberty of mind during the short remainder of that interview. The older man expressed himself throughout in familiar terms, and with a sort of shrewd simplicity. Razumov concluded that to get to the bottom of that mind was an impossible feat. A great disquiet made his heart beat quicker. The high official, issuing from behind the desk, was actually offering to shake hands with him.

“Good-bye, Mr Razumov. An understanding between intelligent men is always a satisfactory occurrence. Is it not? And, of course, these rebel gentlemen have not the monopoly of intelligence.”

“I presume that I shall not be wanted any more?” Razumov brought out that question while his hand was still being grasped. Councillor Mikulin released it slowly.

“That, Mr. Razumov,” he said with great earnestness, “is as it may be. God alone knows the future. But you may rest assured that I never thought of having you watched. You are a young man of great independence. Yes. You are going away free as air, but you shall end by coming back to us.”

“I! I!” Razumov exclaimed in an appalled murmur of protest. “What for?” he added feebly.

“Yes! You yourself, Kirylo Sidorovitch,” the high police functionary insisted in a low, severe tone of conviction. “You shall be coming back to us. Some of our greatest minds had to do that in the end.”

“You have no better friend than Prince K — -, and as to myself it is a long time now since I’ve been honoured by his....”

He glanced down his beard.

“I won’t detain you any longer. We live in difficult times, in times of monstrous chimeras and evil dreams and criminal follies. We shall certainly meet once more. It may be some little time, though, before we do. Till then may Heaven send you fruitful reflections!” Once in the street, Razumov started off rapidly, without caring for the direction. At first he thought of nothing; but in a little while the consciousness of his position presented itself to him as something so ugly, dangerous, and absurd, the difficulty of ever freeing himself from the toils of that complication so insoluble, that the idea of going back and, as he termed it to himself, confessing to Councillor Mikulin flashed through his mind.

Go back! What for? Confess! To what? “I have been speaking to him with the greatest openness,” he said to himself with perfect truth. “What else could I tell him? That I have undertaken to carry a message to that brute Ziemianitch? Establish a false complicity and destroy what chance of safety I have won for nothing — what folly!”

Yet he could not defend himself from fancying that Councillor Mikulin was, perhaps, the only man in the world able to understand his conduct. To be understood appeared extremely fascinating.

On the way home he had to stop several times; all his strength seemed to run out of his limbs; and in the movement of the busy streets, isolated as if in a desert, he remained suddenly motionless for a minute or so before he could proceed on his way. He reached his rooms at last.

Then came an illness, something in the nature of a low fever, which all at once removed him to a great distance from the perplexing actualities, from his very room, even. He never lost consciousness; he only seemed to himself to be existing languidly somewhere very far away from everything that had ever happened to him. He came out of this state slowly, with an effect, that is to say, of extreme slowness, though the actual number of days was not very great. And when he had got back into the middle of things they were all changed, subtly and provokingly in their nature: inanimate objects, human faces, the landlady, the rustic servant-girl, the staircase, the streets, the very air. He tackled these changed conditions in a spirit of severity. He walked to and fro to the University, ascended stairs, paced the passages, listened to lectures, took notes, crossed courtyards in angry aloofness, his teeth set hard till his jaws ached.

He was perfectly aware of madcap Kostia gazing like a young retriever from a distance, of the famished student with the red drooping nose, keeping scrupulously away as desired; of twenty others, perhaps, he knew well enough to speak to. And they all had an air of curiosity and concern as if they expected something to happen. “This can’t last much longer,” thought Razumov more than once. On certain days he was afraid that anyone addressing him suddenly in a certain way would make him scream out insanely a lot of filthy abuse. Often, after returning home, he would drop into a chair in his cap and cloak and remain still for hours holding some book he had got from the library in his hand; or he would pick up the little penknife and sit there scraping his nails endlessly and feeling furious all the time — simply furious. “This is impossible,” he would mutter suddenly to the empty room.

Fact to be noted: this room might conceivably have become physically repugnant to him, emotionally intolerable, morally uninhabitable. But no. Nothing of the sort (and he had himself dreaded it at first), nothing of the sort happened. On the contrary, he liked his lodgings better than any other shelter he, who had never known a home, had ever hired before. He liked his lodgings so well that often, on that very account, he found a certain difficulty in making up his mind to go out. It resembled a physical seduction such as, for instance, makes a man reluctant to leave the neighbourhood of a fire on a cold day.

For as, at that time, he seldom stirred except to go to the University (what else was there to do?) it followed that whenever he went abroad he felt himself at once closely involved in the moral consequences of his act. It was there that the dark prestige of the Haldin mystery fell on him, clung to him like a poisoned robe it was impossible to fling off. He suffered from it exceedingly, as well as from the conversational, commonplace, unavoidable intercourse with the other kind of students. “They must be wondering at the change in me,” he reflected anxiously. He had an uneasy recollection of having savagely told one or two innocent, nice enough fellows to go to the devil. Once a married professor he used to call upon formerly addressed him in passing: “How is it we never see you at our Wednesdays now, Kirylo Sidorovitch?” Razumov was conscious of meeting this advance with odious, muttering boorishness. The professor was obviously too astonished to be offended. All this was bad. And all this was Haldin, always Haldin — nothing but Haldin — everywhere Haldin: a moral spectre infinitely more effective than any visible apparition of the dead. It was only the room through which that man had blundered on his way from crime to death that his spectre did not seem to be able to haunt. Not, to be exact, that he was ever completely absent from it, but that there he had no sort of power. There it was Razumov who had the upper hand, in a composed sense of his own superiority. A vanquished phantom — nothing more. Often in the evening, his repaired watch faintly ticking on the table by the side of the lighted lamp, Razumov would look up from his writing and stare at the bed with an expectant, dispassionate attention. Nothing was to be seen there. He never really supposed that anything ever could be seen there. After a while he would shrug his shoulders slightly and bend again over his work. For he had gone to work and, at first, with some success. His unwillingness to leave that place where he was safe from Haldin grew so strong that at last he ceased to go out at all. From early morning till far into the night he wrote, he wrote for nearly a week; never looking at the time, and only throwing himself on the bed when he could keep his eyes open no longer. Then, one afternoon, quite casually, he happened to glance at his watch. He laid down his pen slowly.

“At this very hour,” was his thought, “the fellow stole unseen into this room while I was out. And there he sat quiet as a mouse — perhaps in this very chair.” Razumov got up and began to pace the floor steadily, glancing at the watch now and then. “This is the time when I returned and found him standing against the stove,” he observed to himself. When it grew dark he lit his lamp. Later on he interrupted his tramping once more, only to wave away angrily the girl who attempted to enter the room with tea and something to eat on a tray. And presently he noted the watch pointing at the hour of his own going forth into the falling snow on that terrible errand.

“Complicity,” he muttered faintly, and resumed his pacing, keeping his eye on the hands as they crept on slowly to the time of his return.

“And, after all,” he thought suddenly, “I might have been the chosen instrument of Providence. This is a manner of speaking, but there may be truth in every manner of speaking. What if that absurd saying were true in its essence?”

He meditated for a while, then sat down, his legs stretched out, with stony eyes, and with his arms hanging down on each side of the chair like a man totally abandoned by Providence — desolate.

He noted the time of Haldin’s departure and continued to sit still for another half-hour; then muttering, “And now to work,” drew up to the table, seized the pen and instantly dropped it under the influence of a profoundly disquieting reflection: “There’s three weeks gone by and no word from Mikulin.”

What did it mean! Was he forgotten? Possibly. Then why not remain forgotten — creep in somewhere? Hide. But where? How? With whom? In what hole? And was it to be for ever, or what?

But a retreat was big with shadowy dangers. The eye of the social revolution was on him, and Razumov for a moment felt an unnamed and despairing dread, mingled with an odious sense of humiliation. Was it possible that he no longer belonged to himself? This was damnable. But why not simply keep on as before? Study. Advance. Work hard as if nothing had happened (and first of all win the Silver Medal), acquire distinction, become a great reforming servant of the greatest of States. Servant, too, of the mightiest homogeneous mass of mankind with a capability for logical, guided development in a brotherly solidarity of force and aim such as the world had never dreamt of... the Russian nation!

Calm, resolved, steady in his great purpose, he was stretching his hand towards the pen when he happened to glance towards the bed. He rushed at it, enraged, with a mental scream: “it’s you, crazy fanatic, who stands in the way!” He flung the pillow on the floor violently, tore the blankets aside.... Nothing there. And, turning away, he caught for an instant in the air, like a vivid detail in a dissolving view of two heads, the eyes of General T — - and of Privy-Councillor Mikulin side by side fixed upon him, quite different in character, but with the same unflinching and weary and yet purposeful expression...servants of the nation!

Razumov tottered to the washstand very alarmed about himself, drank some water and bathed his forehead. “This will pass and leave no trace,” he thought confidently. “I am all right.” But as to supposing that he had been forgotten it was perfect nonsense. He was a marked man on that side. And that was nothing. It was what that miserable phantom stood for which had to be got out of the way.... “If one only could go and spit it all out at some of them — and take the consequences.”

He imagined himself accosting the red-nosed student and suddenly shaking his fist in his face. “From that one, though,” he reflected, “there’s nothing to be got, because he has no mind of his own. He’s living in a red democratic trance. Ah! you want to smash your way into universal happiness, my boy. I will give you universal happiness, you silly, hypnotized ghoul, you! And what about my own happiness, eh? Haven’t I got any right to it, just because I can think for myself?...”

And again, but with a different mental accent, Razumov said to himself, “I am young. Everything can be lived down.” At that moment he was crossing the room slowly, intending to sit down on the sofa and try to compose his thoughts. But before he had got so far everything abandoned him — hope, courage, belief in himself trust in men. His heart had, as it were, suddenly emptied itself. It was no use struggling on. Rest, work, solitude, and the frankness of intercourse with his kind were alike forbidden to him. Everything was gone. His existence was a great cold blank, something like the enormous plain of the whole of Russia levelled with snow and fading gradually on all sides into shadows and mists.

He sat down, with swimming head, closed his eyes, and remained like that, sitting bolt upright on the sofa and perfectly awake for the rest of the night; till the girl bustling into the outer room with the samovar thumped with her fist on the door, calling out, “Kirylo Sidorovitch, please! It is time for you to get up!”

Then, pale like a corpse obeying the dread summons of judgement, Razumov opened his eyes and got up.

Nobody will be surprised to hear, I suppose, that when the summons came he went to see Councillor Mikulin. It came that very morning, while, looking white and shaky, like an invalid just out of bed, he was trying to shave himself. The envelope was addressed in the little attorney’s handwriting. That envelope contained another, superscribed to Razumov, in Prince K — -’s hand, with the request “Please forward under cover at once” in a corner. The note inside was an autograph of Councillor Mikulin. The writer stated candidly that nothing had arisen which needed clearing up, but nevertheless appointed a meeting with Mr. Razumov at a certain address in town which seemed to be that of an oculist.

Razumov read it, finished shaving, dressed, looked at the note again, and muttered gloomily, “Oculist.” He pondered over it for a time, lit a match, and burned the two envelopes and the enclosure carefully. Afterwards he waited, sitting perfectly idle and not even looking at anything in particular till the appointed hour drew near — and then went out.

Whether, looking at the unofficial character of the summons, he might have refrained from attending to it is hard to say. Probably not. At any rate, he went; but, what’s more, he went with a certain eagerness, which may appear incredible till it is remembered that Councillor Mikulin was the only person on earth with whom Razumov could talk, taking the Haldin adventure for granted. And Haldin, when once taken for granted, was no longer a haunting, falsehood-breeding spectre. Whatever troubling power he exercised in all the other places of the earth, Razumov knew very well that at this oculist’s address he would be merely the hanged murderer of M. de P — - and nothing more. For the dead can live only with the exact intensity and quality of the life imparted to them by the living. So Mr. Razumov, certain of relief, went to meet Councillor Mikulin with he eagerness of a pursued person welcoming any sort of shelter.

This much said, there is no need to tell anything more of that first interview and of the several others. To the morality of a Western reader an account of these meetings would wear perhaps the sinister character of old legendary tales where the Enemy of Mankind is represented holding subtly mendacious dialogues with some tempted soul. It is not my part to protest. Let me but remark that the Evil One, with his single passion of satanic pride for the only motive, is yet, on a larger, modern view, allowed to be not quite so black as he used to be painted. With what greater latitude, then, should we appraise the exact shade of mere mortal man, with his many passions and his miserable ingenuity in error, always dazzled by the base glitter of mixed motives, everlastingly betrayed by a short-sighted wisdom.

Councillor Mikulin was one of those powerful officials who, in a position not obscure, not occult, but simply inconspicuous, exercise a great influence over the methods rather than over the conduct of affairs. A devotion to Church and Throne is not in itself a criminal sentiment; to prefer the will of one to the will of many does not argue the possession of a black heart or prove congenital idiocy. Councillor Mikulin was not only a clever but also a faithful official. Privately he was a bachelor with a love of comfort, living alone in an apartment of five rooms luxuriously furnished; and was known by his intimates to be an enlightened patron of the art of female dancing. Later on the larger world first heard of him in the very hour of his downfall, during one of those State trials which astonish and puzzle the average plain man who reads the newspapers, by a glimpse of unsuspected intrigues. And in the stir of vaguely seen monstrosities, in that momentary, mysterious disturbance of muddy waters, Councillor Mikulin went under, dignified, with only a calm, emphatic protest of his innocence — nothing more. No disclosures damaging to a harassed autocracy, complete fidelity to the secrets of the miserable arcana imperii deposited in his patriotic breast, a display of bureaucratic stoicism in a Russian official’s ineradicable, almost sublime contempt for truth; stoicism of silence understood only by the very few of the initiated, and not without a certain cynical grandeur of self-sacrifice on the part of a sybarite. For the terribly heavy sentence turned Councillor Mikulin civilly into a corpse, and actually into something very much like a common convict.

It seems that the savage autocracy, no more than the divine democracy, does not limit its diet exclusively to the bodies of its enemies. It devours its friends and servants as well. The downfall of His Excellency Gregory Gregorievitch Mikulin (which did not occur till some years later) completes all that is known of the man. But at the time of M. de P — -’s murder (or execution) Councillor Mikulin, under the modest style of Head of Department at the General Secretariat, exercised a wide influence as the confidant and right-hand man of his former schoolfellow and lifelong friend, General T — -. One can imagine them talking over the case of Mr. Razumov, with the full sense of their unbounded power over all the lives in Russia, with cursory disdain, like two Olympians glancing at a worm. The relationship with Prince K — - was enough to save Razumov from some carelessly arbitrary proceeding, and it is also very probable that after the interview at the Secretariat he would have been left alone. Councillor Mikulin would not have forgotten him (he forgot no one who ever fell under his observation), but would have simply dropped him for ever. Councillor Mikulin was a good-natured man and wished no harm to anyone. Besides (with his own reforming tendencies) he was favourably impressed by that young student, the son of Prince K — -, and apparently no fool.

But as fate would have it, while Mr. Razumov was finding that no way of life was possible to him, Councillor Mikulin’s discreet abilities were rewarded by a very responsible post — nothing less than the direction of the general police supervision over Europe. And it was then, and then only, when taking in hand the perfecting of the service which watches the revolutionist activities abroad, that he thought again of Mr. Razumov. He saw great possibilities of special usefulness in that uncommon young man on whom he had a hold already, with his peculiar temperament, his unsettled mind and shaken conscience, a struggling in the toils of a false position.... It was as if the revolutionists themselves had put into his hand that tool so much finer than the common base instruments, so perfectly fitted, if only vested with sufficient credit, to penetrate into places inaccessible to common informers. Providential! Providential! And Prince K — -, taken into the secret, was ready enough to adopt that mystical view too. “It will be necessary, though, to make a career for him afterwards,” he had stipulated anxiously. “Oh! absolutely. We shall make that our affair,” Mikulin had agreed. Prince K — -’s mysticism was of an artless kind; but Councillor Mikulin was astute enough for two.

Things and men have always a certain sense, a certain side by which they must be got hold of if one wants to obtain a solid grasp and a perfect command. The power of Councillor Mikulin consisted in the ability to seize upon that sense, that side in the men he used. It did not matter to him what it was — vanity, despair, love, hate, greed, intelligent pride or stupid conceit, it was all one to him as long as the man could be made to serve. The obscure, unrelated young student Razumov, in the moment of great moral loneliness, was allowed to feel that he was an object of interest to a small group of people of high position. Prince K — - was persuaded to intervene personally, and on a certain occasion gave way to a manly emotion which, all unexpected as it was, quite upset Mr. Razumov. The sudden embrace of that man, agitated by his loyalty to a throne and by suppressed paternal affection, was a revelation to Mr. Razumov of something within his own breast.

“So that was it!” he exclaimed to himself. A sort of contemptuous tenderness softened the young man’s grim view of his position as he reflected upon that agitated interview with Prince K — -. This simpleminded, worldly ex-Guardsman and senator whose soft grey official whiskers had brushed against his cheek, his aristocratic and convinced father, was he a whit less estimable or more absurd than that famine-stricken, fanatical revolutionist, the red-nosed student?

And there was some pressure, too, besides the persuasiveness. Mr. Razumov was always being made to feel that he had committed himself. There was no getting away from that feeling, from that soft, unanswerable, “Where to?” of Councillor Mikulin. But no susceptibilities were ever hurt. It was to be a dangerous mission to Geneva for obtaining, at a critical moment, absolutely reliable information from a very inaccessible quarter of the inner revolutionary circle. There were indications that a very serious plot was being matured.... The repose indispensable to a great country was at stake.... A great scheme of orderly reforms would be endangered.... The highest personages in the land were patriotically uneasy, and so on. In short, Councillor Mikulin knew what to say. This skill is to be inferred clearly from the mental and psychological self-confession, self-analysis of Mr. Razumov’s written journal — the pitiful resource of a young man who had near him no trusted intimacy, no natural affection to turn to.

How all this preliminary work was concealed from observation need not be recorded. The expedient of the oculist gives a sufficient instance. Councillor Mikulin was resourceful, and the task not very difficult. Any fellow-student, even the red-nosed one, was perfectly welcome to see Mr. Razumov entering a private house to consult an oculist. Ultimate success depended solely on the revolutionary self-delusion which credited Razumov with a mysterious complicity in the Haldin affair. To be compromised in it was credit enough-and it was their own doing. It was precisely that which stamped Mr. Razumov as a providential man, wide as poles apart from the usual type of agent for “European supervision.”

And it was that which the Secretariat set itself the task to foster by a course of calculated and false indiscretions.

It came at last to this, that one evening Mr. Razumov was unexpectedly called upon by one of the “thinking” students whom formerly, before the Haldin affair, he used to meet at various private gatherings; a big fellow with a quiet, unassuming manner and a pleasant voice.

Recognizing his voice raised in the ante-room, “May one come in?” Razumov, lounging idly on his couch, jumped up. “Suppose he were coming to stab me?” he thought sardonically, and, assuming a green shade over his left eye, said in a severe tone, “Come in.”

The other was embarrassed; hoped he was not intruding.

“You haven’t been seen for several days, and I’ve wondered.” He coughed a little. “Eye better?”

“Nearly well now.”

“Good. I won’t stop a minute; but you see I, that is, we — anyway, I have undertaken the duty to warn you, Kirylo Sidorovitch, that you are living in false security maybe.”

Razumov sat still with his head leaning on his hand, which nearly concealed the unshaded eye.

“I have that idea, too.”

“That’s all right, then. Everything seems quiet now, but those people are preparing some move of general repression. That’s of course. But it isn’t that I came to tell you.” He hitched his chair closer, dropped his voice. “You will be arrested before long — we fear.”

An obscure scribe in the Secretariat had overheard a few words of a certain conversation, and had caught a glimpse of a certain report. This intelligence was not to be neglected.

Razumov laughed a little, and his visitor became very anxious.

“Ah! Kirylo Sidorovitch, this is no laughing matter. They have left you alone for a while, but...! Indeed, you had better try to leave the country, Kirylo Sidorovitch, while there’s yet time.”

Razumov jumped up and began to thank him for the advice with mocking effusiveness, so that the other, colouring up, took himself off with the notion that this mysterious Razumov was not a person to be warned or advised by inferior mortals.

Councillor Mikulin, informed the next day of the incident, expressed his satisfaction. “H’m! Ha! Exactly what was wanted to...” and glanced down his beard.

“I conclude,” said Razumov, “that the moment has come for me to start on my mission.”

“The psychological Moment,” Councillor Mikulin insisted softly — very gravely — as if awed.

All the arrangements to give verisimilitude to the appearance of a difficult escape were made. Councillor Mikulin did not expect to see Mr. Razumov again before his departure. These meetings were a risk, and there was nothing more to settle.

“We have said everything to each other by now, Kirylo Sidorovitch,” said the high official feelingly, pressing Razumov’s hand with that unreserved heartiness a Russian can convey in his manner. “There is nothing obscure between us. And I will tell you what! I consider myself fortunate in having — h’m — your...”

He glanced down his beard, and, after a moment of thoughtful silence, handed to Razumov a half-sheet of notepaper — an abbreviated note of matters already discussed, certain points of inquiry, the line of conduct agreed on, a few hints as to personalities, and so on. It was the only compromising document in the case, but, as Councillor Mikulin observed, “it could be easily destroyed. Mr. Razumov had better not see any one now — till on the other side of the frontier, when, of course, it will be just that.... See and hear and...”

He glanced down his beard; but when Razumov declared his intention to see one person at least before leaving St. Petersburg, Councillor Mikulin failed to conceal a sudden uneasiness. The young man’s studious, solitary, and austere existence was well known to him. It was the greatest guarantee of fitness. He became deprecatory. Had his dear Kirylo Sidorovitch considered whether, in view of such a momentous enterprise, it wasn’t really advisable to sacrifice every sentiment....

Razumov interrupted the remonstrance scornfully. It was not a young woman, it was a young fool he wished to see for a certain purpose. Councillor Mikulin was relieved, but surprised.

“Ah! And what for — precisely?”

“For the sake of improving the aspect of verisimilitude,” said Razumov curtly, in a desire to affirm his independence. “I must be trusted in what I do.”

Councillor Mikulin gave way tactfully, murmuring, “Oh, certainly, certainly. Your judgment...”

And with another handshake they parted.

The fool of whom Mr. Razumov had thought was the rich and festive student known as madcap Kostia. Feather-headed, loquacious, excitable, one could make certain of his utter and complete indiscretion. But that riotous youth, when reminded by Razumov of his offers of service some time ago, passed from his usual elation into boundless dismay.

“Oh, Kirylo Sidorovitch, my dearest friend — my saviour — what shall I do? I’ve blown last night every rouble I had from my dad the other day. Can’t you give me till Thursday? I shall rush round to all the usurers I know.... No, of course, you can’t! Don’t look at me like that. What shall I do? No use asking the old man. I tell you he’s given me a fistful of big notes three days ago. Miserable wretch that I am.”

He wrung his hands in despair. Impossible to confide in the old man. “They” had given him a decoration, a cross on the neck only last year, and he had been cursing the modern tendencies ever since. Just then he would see all the intellectuals in Russia hanged in a row rather than part with a single rouble.

“Kirylo Sidorovitch, wait a moment. Don’t despise me. I have it. I’ll, yes — I’ll do it — I’ll break into his desk. There’s no help for it. I know the drawer where he keeps his plunder, and I can buy a chisel on my way home. He will be terribly upset, but, you know, the dear old duffer really loves me. He’ll have to get over it — and I, too. Kirylo, my dear soul, if you can only wait for a few hours-till this evening — I shall steal all the blessed lot I can lay my hands on! You doubt me! Why? You’ve only to say the word.”

“Steal, by all means,” said Razumov, fixing him stonily.

“To the devil with the ten commandments!” cried the other, with the greatest animation. “It’s the new future now.”

But when he entered Razumov’s room late in the evening it was with an unaccustomed soberness of manner, almost solemnly.

“It’s done,” he said.

Razumov sitting bowed, his clasped hands hanging between his knees, shuddered at the familiar sound of these words. Kostia deposited slowly in the circle of lamplight a small brown-paper parcel tied with a piece of string.

“As I’ve said — all I could lay my hands on. The old boy’ll think the end of the world has come.” Razumov nodded from the couch, and contemplated the hare-brained fellow’s gravity with a feeling of malicious pleasure.

“I’ve made my little sacrifice,” sighed mad Kostia. “And I’ve to thank you, Kirylo Sidorovitch, for the opportunity.”

“It has cost you something?”

“Yes, it has. You see, the dear old duffer really loves me. He’ll be hurt.”

“And you believe all they tell you of the new future and the sacred will of the people?”

“Implicitly. I would give my life.... Only, you see, I am like a pig at a trough. I am no good. It’s my nature.”

Razumov, lost in thought, had forgotten his existence till the youth’s voice, entreating him to fly without loss of time, roused him unpleasantly.

“All right. Well — good-bye.”

“I am not going to leave you till I’ve seen you out of St. Petersburg,” declared Kostia unexpectedly, with calm determination. “You can’t refuse me that now. For God’s sake, Kirylo, my soul, the police may be here any moment, and when they get you they’ll immure you somewhere for ages — till your hair turns grey. I have down there the best trotter of dad’s stables and a light sledge. We shall do thirty miles before the moon sets, and find some roadside station....”

Razumov looked up amazed. The journey was decided — unavoidable. He had fixed the next day for his departure on the mission. And now he discovered suddenly that he had not believed in it. He had gone about listening, speaking, thinking, planning his simulated flight, with the growing conviction that all this was preposterous. As if anybody ever did such things! It was like a game of make-believe. And now he was amazed! Here was somebody who believed in it with desperate earnestness. “If I don’t go now, at once,” thought Razumov, with a start of fear, “I shall never go.” He rose without a word, and the anxious Kostia thrust his cap on him, helped him into his cloak, or else he would have left the room bareheaded as he stood. He was walking out silently when a sharp cry arrested him.


“What?” He turned reluctantly in the doorway. Upright, with a stiffly extended arm, Kostia, his face set and white, was pointing an eloquent forefinger at the brown little packet lying forgotten in the circle of bright light on the table. Razumov hesitated, came back for it under the severe eyes of his companion, at whom he tried to smile. But the boyish, mad youth was frowning. “It’s a dream,” thought Razumov, putting the little parcel into his pocket and descending the stairs; “nobody does such things.” The other held him under the arm, whispering of dangers ahead, and of what he meant to do in certain contingencies. “Preposterous,” murmured Razumov, as he was being tucked up in the sledge. He gave himself up to watching the development of the dream with extreme attention. It continued on foreseen lines, inexorably logical — the long drive, the wait at the small station sitting by a stove. They did not exchange half a dozen words altogether. Kostia, gloomy himself, did not care to break the silence. At parting they embraced twice — it had to be done; and then Kostia vanished out of the dream.

When dawn broke, Razumov, very still in a hot, stuffy railway-car full of bedding and of sleeping people in all its dimly lighted length, rose quietly, lowered the glass a few inches, and flung out on the great plain of snow a small brown-paper parcel. Then he sat down again muffled up and motionless. “For the people,” he thought, staring out of the window. The great white desert of frozen, hard earth glided past his eyes without a sign of human habitation.

That had been a waking act; and then the dream had him again: Prussia, Saxony, Wurtemberg, faces, sights, words — all a dream, observed with an angry, compelled attention. Zurich, Geneva — still a dream, minutely followed, wearing one into harsh laughter, to fury, to death — with the fear of awakening at the end.

Chapter 2

“Perhaps life is just that,” reflected Razumov, pacing to and fro under the trees of the little island, all alone with the bronze statue of Rousseau. “A dream and a fear.” The dusk deepened. The pages written over and torn out of his notebook were the first-fruit of his “mission.” No dream that. They contained the assurance that he was on the eve of real discoveries. “I think there is no longer anything in the way of my being completely accepted.”

He had resumed his impressions in those pages, some of the conversations. He even went so far as to write: “By the by, I have discovered the personality of that terrible N.N. A horrible, paunchy brute. If I hear anything of his future movements I shall send a warning.”

The futility of all this overcame him like a curse. Even then he could not believe in the reality of his mission. He looked round despairingly, as if for some way to redeem his existence from that unconquerable feeling. He crushed angrily in his hand the pages of the notebook. “This must be posted,” he thought.

He gained the bridge and returned to the north shore, where he remembered having seen in one of the narrower streets a little obscure shop stocked with cheap wood carvings, its walls lined with extremely dirty cardboard-bound volumes of a small circulating library. They sold stationery there, too. A morose, shabby old man dozed behind the counter. A thin woman in black, with a sickly face, produced the envelope he had asked for without even looking at him. Razumov thought that these people were safe to deal with because they no longer cared for anything in the world. He addressed the envelope on the counter with the German name of a certain person living in Vienna. But Razumov knew that this, his first communication for Councillor Mikulin, would find its way to the Embassy there, be copied in cypher by somebody trustworthy, and sent on to its destination, all safe, along with the diplomatic correspondence. That was the arrangement contrived to cover up the track of the information from all unfaithful eyes, from all indiscretions, from all mishaps and treacheries. It was to make him safe — absolutely safe.

He wandered out of the wretched shop and made for the post office. It was then that I saw him for the second time that day. He was crossing the Rue Mont Blanc with every appearance of an aimless stroller. He did not recognize me, but I made him out at some distance. He was very good-looking, I thought, this remarkable friend of Miss Haldin’s brother. I watched him go up to the letter-box and then retrace his steps. Again he passed me very close, but I am certain he did not see me that time, either. He carried his head well up, but he had the expression of a somnambulist struggling with the very dream which drives him forth to wander in dangerous places. My thoughts reverted to Natalia Haldin, to her mother. He was all that was left to them of their son and brother.

The westerner in me was discomposed. There was something shocking in the expression of that face. Had I been myself a conspirator, a Russian political refugee, I could have perhaps been able to draw some practical conclusion from this chance glimpse. As it was, it only discomposed me strongly, even to the extent of awakening an indefinite apprehension in regard to Natalia Haldin. All this is rather inexplicable, but such was the origin of the purpose I formed there and then to call on these ladies in the evening, after my solitary dinner. It was true that I had met Miss Haldin only a few hours before, but Mrs. Haldin herself I had not seen for some considerable time. The truth is, I had shirked calling of late.

Poor Mrs. Haldin! I confess she frightened me a little. She was one of those natures, rare enough, luckily, in which one cannot help being interested, because they provoke both terror and pity. One dreads their contact for oneself, and still more for those one cares for, so clear it is that they are born to suffer and to make others suffer, too. It is strange to think that, I won’t say liberty, but the mere liberalism of outlook which for us is a matter of words, of ambitions, of votes (and if of feeling at all, then of the sort of feeling which leaves our deepest affections untouched), may be for other beings very much like ourselves and living under the same sky, a heavy trial of fortitude, a matter of tears and anguish and blood. Mrs. Haldin had felt the pangs of her own generation. There was that enthusiast brother of hers — the officer they shot under Nicholas. A faintly ironic resignation is no armour for a vulnerable heart. Mrs. Haldin, struck at through her children, was bound to suffer afresh from the past, and to feel the anguish of the future. She was of those who do not know how to heal themselves, of those who are too much aware of their heart, who, neither cowardly nor selfish, look passionately at its wounds — and count the cost.

Such thoughts as these seasoned my modest, lonely bachelor’s meal. If anybody wishes to remark that this was a roundabout way of thinking of Natalia Haldin, I can only retort that she was well worth some concern. She had all her life before her. Let it be admitted, then, that I was thinking of Natalia Haldin’s life in terms of her mother’s character, a manner of thinking about a girl permissible for an old man, not too old yet to have become a stranger to pity. There was almost all her youth before her; a youth robbed arbitrarily of its natural lightness and joy, overshadowed by an un-European despotism; a terribly sombre youth given over to the hazards of a furious strife between equally ferocious antagonisms.

I lingered over my thoughts more than I should have done. One felt so helpless, and even worse — so unrelated, in a way. At the last moment I hesitated as to going there at all. What was the good?

The evening was already advanced when, turning into the Boulevard des Philosophes, I saw the light in the window at the corner. The blind was down, but I could imagine behind it Mrs. Haldin seated in the chair, in her usual attitude, looking out for some one, which had lately acquired the poignant quality of mad expectation.

I thought that I was sufficiently authorized by the light to knock at the door. The ladies had not retired as yet. I only hoped they would not have any visitors of their own nationality. A broken-down, retired Russian official was to be found there sometimes in the evening. He was infinitely forlorn and wearisome by his mere dismal presence. I think these ladies tolerated his frequent visits because of an ancient friendship with Mr. Haldin, the father, or something of that sort. I made up my mind that if I found him prosing away there in his feeble voice I should remain but a very few minutes.

The door surprised me by swinging open before I could ring the bell. I was confronted by Miss Haldin, in hat and jacket, obviously on the point of going out. At that hour! For the doctor, perhaps?

Her exclamation of welcome reassured me. It sounded as if I had been the very man she wanted to see. My curiosity was awakened. She drew me in, and the faithful Anna, the elderly German maid, closed the door, but did not go away afterwards. She remained near it as if in readiness to let me out presently. It appeared that Miss Haldin had been on the point of going out to find me.

She spoke in a hurried manner very unusual with her. She would have gone straight and rung at Mrs. Ziegler’s door, late as it was, for Mrs. Ziegler’s habits....

Mrs. Ziegler, the widow of a distinguished professor who was an intimate friend of mine, lets me have three rooms out of her very large and fine apartment, which she didn’t give up after her husband’s death; but I have my own entrance opening on the same landing. It was an arrangement of at least ten years’ standing. I said that I was very glad that I had the idea to....

Miss Haldin made no motion to take off her outdoor things. I observed her heightened colour, something pronouncedly resolute in her tone. Did I know where Mr. Razumov lived?

Where Mr. Razumov lived? Mr. Razumov? At this hour — so urgently? I threw my arms up in sign of utter ignorance. I had not the slightest idea where he lived. If I could have foreseen her question only three hours ago, I might have ventured to ask him on the pavement before the new post office building, and possibly he would have told me, but very possibly, too, he would have dismissed me rudely to mind my own business. And possibly, I thought, remembering that extraordinary hallucined, anguished, and absent expression, he might have fallen down in a fit from the shock of being spoken to. I said nothing of all this to Miss Haldin, not even mentioning that I had a glimpse of the young man so recently. The impression had been so extremely unpleasant that I would have been glad to forget it myself.

“I don’t see where I could make inquiries,” I murmured helplessly. I would have been glad to be of use in any way, and would have set off to fetch any man, young or old, for I had the greatest confidence in her common sense. “What made you think of coming to me for that information?” I asked.

“It wasn’t exactly for that,” she said, in a low voice. She had the air of some one confronted by an unpleasant task.

“Am I to understand that you must communicate with Mr. Razumov this evening?”

Natalia Haldin moved her head affirmatively; then, after a glance at the door of the drawing-room, said in French —

“C’est maman,” and remained perplexed for a moment. Always serious, not a girl to be put out by any imaginary difficulties, my curiosity was suspended on her lips, which remained closed for a moment. What was Mr. Razumov’s connexion with this mention of her mother? Mrs. Haldin had not been informed of her son’s friend’s arrival in Geneva.

“May I hope to see your mother this evening?” I inquired.

Miss Haldin extended her hand as if to bar the way.

“She is in a terrible state of agitation. Oh, you would not he able to detect.... It’s inward, but I who know mother, I am appalled. I haven’t the courage to face it any longer. It’s all my fault; I suppose I cannot play a part; I’ve never before hidden anything from mother. There has never been an occasion for anything of that sort between us. But you know yourself the reason why I refrained from telling her at once of Mr. Razumov’s arrival here. You understand, don’t you? Owing to her unhappy state. And — there — I am no actress. My own feelings being strongly engaged, I somehow.... I don’t know. She noticed something in my manner. She thought I was concealing something from her. She noticed my longer absences, and, in fact, as I have been meeting Mr. Razumov daily, I used to stay away longer than usual when I went out. Goodness knows what suspicions arose in her mind. You know that she has not been herself ever since.... So this evening she — who has been so awfully silent: for weeks-began to talk all at once. She said that she did not want to reproach me; that I had my character as she had her own; that she did not want to pry into my affairs or even into my thoughts; for her part, she had never had anything to conceal from her children...cruel things to listen to. And all this in her quiet voice, with that poor, wasted face as calm as a stone. It was unbearable.”

Miss Haldin talked in an undertone and more rapidly than I had ever heard her speak before. That in itself was disturbing. The ante-room being strongly lighted, I could see under the veil the heightened colour of her face. She stood erect, her left hand was resting lightly on a small table. The other hung by her side without stirring. Now and then she caught her breath slightly.

“It was too startling. Just fancy! She thought that I was making preparations to leave her without saying anything. I knelt by the side of her chair and entreated her to think of what she was saying! She put her hand on my head, but she persists in her delusion all the same. She had always thought that she was worthy of her children’s confidence, but apparently it was not so. Her son could not trust her love nor yet her understanding — and now I was planning to abandon her in the same cruel and unjust manner, and so on, and so on. Nothing I could say.... It is morbid obstinacy.... She said that she felt there was something, some change in me.... If my convictions were calling me away, why this secrecy, as though she had been a coward or a weakling not safe to trust? ‘As if my heart could play traitor to my children,’ she said.... It was hardly to be borne. And she was smoothing my head all the time.... It was perfectly useless to protest. She is ill. Her very soul is....”

I did not venture to break the silence which fell between us. I looked into her eyes, glistening through the veil.

“I! Changed!” she exclaimed in the same low tone. “My convictions calling me away! It was cruel to hear this, because my trouble is that I am weak and cannot see what I ought to do. You know that. And to end it all I did a selfish thing. To remove her suspicions of myself I told her of Mr. Razumov. It was selfish of me. You know we were completely right in agreeing to keep the knowledge away from her. Perfectly right. Directly I told her of our poor Victor’s friend being here I saw how right we have been. She ought to have been prepared; but in my distress I just blurted it out. Mother got terribly excited at once. How long has he been here? What did he know, and why did he not come to see us at once, this friend of her Victor? What did that mean? Was she not to be trusted even with such memories as there were left of her son?... Just think how I felt seeing her, white like a sheet, perfectly motionless, with her thin hands gripping the arms of the chair. I told her it was all my fault.”

I could imagine the motionless dumb figure of the mother in her chair, there, behind the door, near which the daughter was talking to me. The silence in there seemed to call aloud for vengeance against an historical fact and the modern instances of its working. That view flashed through my mind, but I could not doubt that Miss Haldin had had an atrocious time of it. I quite understood when she said that she could not face the night upon the impression of that scene. Mrs. Haldin had given way to most awful imaginings, to most fantastic and cruel suspicions. All this had to be lulled at all costs and without loss of time. It was no shock to me to learn that Miss Haldin had said to her, “I will go and bring him here at once.” There was nothing absurd in that cry, no exaggeration of sentiment. I was not even doubtful in my “Very well, but how?”

It was perfectly right that she should think of me, but what could I do in my ignorance of Mr. Razumov’s quarters.

“And to think he may be living near by, within a stone’s-throw, perhaps!” she exclaimed.

I doubted it; but I would have gone off cheerfully to fetch him from the other end of Geneva. I suppose she was certain of my readiness, since her first thought was to come to me. But the service she meant to ask of me really was to accompany her to the Chateau Borel.

I had an unpleasant mental vision of the dark road, of the sombre grounds, and the desolately suspicious aspect of that home of necromancy and intrigue and feminist adoration. I objected that Madame de S — most likely would know nothing of what we wanted to find out. Neither did I think it likely that the young man would be found there. I remembered my glimpse of his face, and somehow gained the conviction that a man who looked worse than if he had seen the dead would want to shut himself up somewhere where he could be alone. I felt a strange certitude that Mr. Razumov was going home when I saw him.

“It is really of Peter Ivanovitch that I was thinking,” said Miss Haldin quietly.

Ah! He, of course, would know. I looked at my watch. It was twenty minutes past nine only.... Still.

“I would try his hotel, then,” I advised. “He has rooms at the Cosmopolitan, somewhere on the top floor.”

I did not offer to go by myself, simply from mistrust of the reception I should meet with. But I suggested the faithful Anna, with a note asking for the information.

Anna was still waiting by the door at the other end of the room, and we two discussed the matter in whispers. Miss Haldin thought she must go herself. Anna was timid and slow. Time would be lost in bringing back the answer, and from that point of view it was getting late, for it was by no means certain that Mr. Razumov lived near by.

“If I go myself,” Miss Haldin argued, “I can go straight to him from the hotel. And in any case I should have to go out, because I must explain to Mr. Razumov personally — prepare him in a way. You have no idea of mother’s state of mind.”

Her colour came and went. She even thought that both for her mother’s sake and for her own it was better that they should not be together for a little time. Anna, whom her mother liked, would be at hand.

“She could take her sewing into the room,” Miss Haldin continued, leading the way to the door. Then, addressing in German the maid who opened it before us, “You may tell my mother that this gentleman called and is gone with me to find Mr. Razumov. She must not be uneasy if I am away for some length of time.”

We passed out quickly into the street, and she took deep breaths of the cool night air. “I did not even ask you,” she murmured.

“I should think not,” I said, with a laugh. The manner of my reception by the great feminist could not be considered now. That he would be annoyed to see me, and probably treat me to some solemn insolence, I had no doubt, but I supposed that he would not absolutely dare to throw me out. And that was all I cared for. “Won’t you take my arm?” I asked.

She did so in silence, and neither of us said anything worth recording till I let her go first into the great hall of the hotel. It was brilliantly lighted, and with a good many people lounging about.

“I could very well go up there without you,” I suggested.

“I don’t like to be left waiting in this place,” she said in a low voice.

“I will come too.”

I led her straight to the lift then. At the top floor the attendant directed us to the right: “End of the corridor.”

The walls were white, the carpet red, electric lights blazed in profusion, and the emptiness, the silence, the closed doors all alike and numbered, made me think of the perfect order of some severely luxurious model penitentiary on the solitary confinement principle. Up there under the roof of that enormous pile for housing travellers no sound of any kind reached us, the thick crimson felt muffled our footsteps completely. We hastened on, not looking at each other till we found ourselves before the very last door of that long passage. Then our eyes met, and we stood thus for a moment lending ear to a faint murmur of voices inside.

“I suppose this is it,” I whispered unnecessarily. I saw Miss Haldin’s lips move without a sound, and after my sharp knock the murmur of voices inside ceased. A profound stillness lasted for a few seconds, and then the door was brusquely opened by a short, black-eyed woman in a red blouse, with a great lot of nearly white hair, done up negligently in an untidy and unpicturesque manner. Her thin, jetty eyebrows were drawn together. I learned afterwards with interest that she was the famous — or the notorious — Sophia Antonovna, but I was struck then by the quaint Mephistophelian character of her inquiring glance, because it was so curiously evil-less, so — I may say — un-devilish. It got softened still more as she looked up at Miss Haldin, who stated, in her rich, even voice, her wish to see Peter Ivanovitch for a moment.

“I am Miss Haldin,” she added.

At this, with her brow completely smoothed out now, but without a word in answer, the woman in the red blouse walked away to a sofa and sat down, leaving the door wide open.

And from the sofa, her hands lying on her lap, she watched us enter, with her black, glittering eyes.

Miss Haldin advanced into the middle of the room; I, faithful to my part of mere attendant, remained by the door after closing it behind me. The room, quite a large one, but with a low ceiling, was scantily furnished, and an electric bulb with a porcelain shade pulled low down over a big table (with a very large map spread on it) left its distant parts in a dim, artificial twilight. Peter Ivanovitch was not to be seen, neither was Mr. Razumov present. But, on the sofa, near Sophia Antonovna, a bony-faced man with a goatee beard leaned forward with his hands on his knees, staring hard with a kindly expression. In a remote corner a broad, pale face and a bulky shape could be made out, uncouth, and as if insecure on the low seat on which it rested. The only person known to me was little Julius Laspara, who seemed to have been poring over the map, his feet twined tightly round the chair-legs. He got down briskly and bowed to Miss Haldin, looking absurdly like a hooknosed boy with a beautiful false pepper-and-salt beard. He advanced, offering his seat, which Miss Haldin declined. She had only come in for a moment to say a few words to Peter Ivanovitch.

His high-pitched voice became painfully audible in the room.

“Strangely enough, I was thinking of you this very afternoon, Natalia Victorovna. I met Mr. Razumov. I asked him to write me an article on anything he liked. You could translate it into English — with such a teacher.”

He nodded complimentarily in my direction. At the name of Razumov an indescribable sound, a sort of feeble squeak, as of some angry small animal, was heard in the corner occupied by the man who seemed much too large for the chair on which he sat. I did not hear what Miss Haldin said. Laspara spoke again.

“It’s time to do something, Natalia Victorovna. But I suppose you have your own ideas. Why not write something yourself? Suppose you came to see us soon? We could talk it over. Any advice...”

Again I did not catch Miss Haldin’s words. It was Laspara’s voice once more.

“Peter Ivanovitch? He’s retired for a moment into the other room. We are all waiting for him.” The great man, entering at that moment, looked bigger, taller, quite imposing in a long dressing-gown of some dark stuff. It descended in straight lines down to his feet. He suggested a monk or a prophet, a robust figure of same desert-dweller — something Asiatic; and the dark glasses in conjunction with this costume made him more mysterious than ever in the subdued light.

Little Laspara went back to his chair to look at the map, the only brilliantly lit object in the room. Even from my distant position by the door I could make out, by the shape of the blue part representing the water, that it was a map of the Baltic provinces. Peter Ivanovitch exclaimed slightly, advancing towards Miss Haldin, checked himself on perceiving me, very vaguely no doubt; and peered with his dark, bespectacled stare. He must have recognized me by my grey hair, because, with a marked shrug of his broad shoulders, he turned to Miss Haldin in benevolent indulgence. He seized her hand in his thick cushioned palm, and put his other big paw over it like a lid.

While those two standing in the middle of the floor were exchanging a few inaudible phrases no one else moved in the room: Laspara, with his back to us, kneeling on the chair, his elbows propped on the big-scale map, the shadowy enormity in the corner, the frankly staring man with the goatee on the sofa, the woman in the red blouse by his side — not one of them stirred. I suppose that really they had no time, for Miss Haldin withdrew her hand immediately from Peter Ivanovitch and before I was ready for her was moving to the door. A disregarded Westerner, I threw it open hurriedly and followed her out, my last glance leaving them all motionless in their varied poses: Peter Ivanovitch alone standing up, with his dark glasses like an enormous blind teacher, and behind him the vivid patch of light on the coloured map, pored over by the diminutive Laspara.

Later on, much later on, at the time of the newspaper rumours (they were vague and soon died out) of an abortive military conspiracy in Russia, I remembered the glimpse I had of that motionless group with its central figure. No details ever came out, but it was known that the revolutionary parties abroad had given their assistance, had sent emissaries in advance, that even money was found to dispatch a steamer with a cargo of arms and conspirators to invade the Baltic provinces. And while my eyes scanned the imperfect disclosures (in which the world was not much interested) I thought that the old, settled Europe had been given in my person attending that Russian girl something like a glimpse behind the scenes. A short, strange glimpse on the top floor of a great hotel of all places in the world: the great man himself; the motionless great bulk in the corner of the slayer of spies and gendarmes; Yakovlitch, the veteran of ancient terrorist campaigns; the woman, with her hair as white as mine and the lively black eyes, all in a mysterious half-light, with the strongly lighted map of Russia on the table. The woman I had the opportunity to see again. As we were waiting for the lift she came hurrying along the corridor, with her eyes fastened on Miss Haldin’s face, and drew her aside as if for a confidential communication. It was not long. A few words only.

Going down in the lift, Natalia Haldin did not break the silence. It was only when out of the hotel and as we moved along the quay in the fresh darkness spangled by the quay lights, reflected in the black water of the little port on our left hand, and with lofty piles of hotels on our right, that she spoke.

“That was Sophia Antonovna — you know the woman?...”

“Yes, I know — the famous...”

“The same. It appears that after we went out Peter Ivanovitch told them why I had come. That was the reason she ran out after us. She named herself to me, and then she said, ‘You are the sister of a brave man who shall be remembered. You may see better times.’ I told her I hoped to see the time when all this would be forgotten, even if the name of my brother were to be forgotten too. Something moved me to say that, but you understand?”

“Yes,” I said. “You think of the era of concord and justice.”

“Yes. There is too much hate and revenge in that work. It must be done. It is a sacrifice — and so let it be all the greater. Destruction is the work of anger. Let the tyrants and the slayers be forgotten together, and only the reconstructors be remembered.’’

“And did Sophia Antonovna agree with you?” I asked sceptically.

“She did not say anything except, ‘It is good for you to believe in love.’ I should think she understood me. Then she asked me if I hoped to see Mr. Razumov presently. I said I trusted I could manage to bring him to see my mother this evening, as my mother had learned of his being here and was morbidly impatient to learn if he could tell us something of Victor. He was the only friend of my brother we knew of, and a great intimate. She said, ‘Oh! Your brother — yes. Please tell Mr. Razumov that I have made public the story which came to me from St. Petersburg. It concerns your brother’s arrest,’ she added. ‘He was betrayed by a man of the people who has since hanged himself. Mr. Razumov will explain it all to you. I gave him the full information this afternoon. And please tell Mr. Razumov that Sophia Antonovna sends him her greetings. I am going away early in the morning — far away.’“

And Miss Haldin added, after a moment of silence — ”I was so moved by what I heard so unexpectedly that I simply could not speak to you before.... A man of the people! Oh, our poor people!”

She walked slowly, as if tired out suddenly. Her head drooped; from the windows of a building with terraces and balconies came the banal sound of hotel music; before the low mean portals of the Casino two red posters blazed under the electric lamps, with a cheap provincial effect. — and the emptiness of the quays, the desert aspect of the streets, had an air of hypocritical respectability and of inexpressible dreariness.

I had taken for granted she had obtained the address, and let myself be guided by her. On the Mont Blanc bridge, where a few dark figures seemed lost in the wide and long perspective defined by the lights, she said —

“It isn’t very far from our house. I somehow thought it couldn’t be. The address is Rue de Carouge. I think it must be one of those big new houses for artisans.”

She took my arm confidingly, familiarly, and accelerated her pace. There was something primitive in our proceedings. We did not think of the resources of civilization. A late tramcar overtook us; a row of fiacres stood by the railing of the gardens. It never entered our heads to make use of these conveyances. She was too hurried, perhaps, and as to myself — well, she had taken my arm confidingly. As we were ascending the easy incline of the Corraterie, all the shops shuttered and no light in any of the windows (as if all the mercenary population had fled at the end of the day), she said tentatively —

“I could run in for a moment to have a look at mother. It would not be much out of the way.”

I dissuaded her. If Mrs. Haldin really expected to see Razumov that night it would have been unwise to show herself without him. The sooner we got hold of the young man and brought him along to calm her mother’s agitation the better. She assented to my reasoning, and we crossed diagonally the Place de Theatre, bluish grey with its floor of slabs of stone, under the electric light, and the lonely equestrian statue all black in the middle. In the Rue de Carouge we were in the poorer quarters and approaching the outskirts of the town. Vacant building plots alternated with high, new houses. At the corner of a side street the crude light of a whitewashed shop fell into the night, fan-like, through a wide doorway. One could see from a distance the inner wall with its scantily furnished shelves, and the deal counter painted brown. That was the house. Approaching it along the dark stretch of a fence of tarred planks, we saw the narrow pallid face of the cut angle, five single windows high, without a gleam in them, and crowned by the heavy shadow of a jutting roof slope.

“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.

“Why, yes!”

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 absurd.

Chapter 3

“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,” she insisted.

“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 chair.

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 remedy.

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 late.

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 tear.”

“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 their souls.

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 generous soul.”

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 glance.

“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 follow.”

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 devilish suggestion!”

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 people.”

“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 remorse?”

“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 no love.”

“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 there.”

“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 perfectly still.

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 ice.”

Chapter 4

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 every shade.

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 lies.

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 somebody.

“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 a murmur —

“What else can we do? After this piece of sincerity he cannot be dangerous any longer.”

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, gleeful squeak.

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 car.”

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.”

Chapter 5

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 eyes.

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 again. Never!

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 episode.

“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 assured me.

“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 Peter Ivanovitch?”

“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 flunkeys. Tfui!”

“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 peasant girl.”

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.”



Those that hold that all things are governed by Fortune had not erred, had they not persisted there

Sir Thomas Browne

To sir hugh clifford, k.C.M.G. Who steadfast friendship is responsible for the existence of these pages


  • Part I — the Damsel

  • Chapter One — Young Powell and His Chance

  • Chapter Two — The Fynes and the Girl-friend

  • Chapter Three — Thrift — And the Child

  • Chapter Four — the Governess

  • Chapter Five — the Tea-party

  • Chapter Six — Flora

  • Chapter Seven — On the Pavement

  • Part II — the Knight

  • Chapter One — The Ferndale

  • Chapter Two — Young Powell Sees and Hears

  • Chapter Three — Devoted Servants — And the Light of a Flare

  • Chapter Four — Anthony and Flora

  • Chapter Five — the Great De Barral

  • Chapter Six — . . . A Moonless Night, Thick With Stars Above, Very Dark on the Water

Part 1 — The Damsel

Chapter 1 — Young Powell and His Chance

I believe he had seen us out of the window coming off to dine in the dinghy of a fourteen-ton yawl belonging to Marlow my host and skipper. We helped the boy we had with us to haul the boat up on the landing-stage before we went up to the riverside inn, where we found our new acquaintance eating his dinner in dignified loneliness at the head of a long table, white and inhospitable like a snow bank.

The red tint of his clear-cut face with trim short black whiskers under a cap of curly iron-grey hair was the only warm spot in the dinginess of that room cooled by the cheerless tablecloth. We knew him already by sight as the owner of a little five-ton cutter, which he sailed alone apparently, a fellow yachtsman in the unpretending band of fanatics who cruise at the mouth of the Thames. But the first time he addressed the waiter sharply as ‘steward’ we knew him at once for a sailor as well as a yachtsman.

Presently he had occasion to reprove that same waiter for the slovenly manner in which the dinner was served. He did it with considerable energy and then turned to us.

“If we at sea,” he declared, “went about our work as people ashore high and low go about theirs we should never make a living. No one would employ us. And moreover no ship navigated and sailed in the happy-go-lucky manner people conduct their business on shore would ever arrive into port.”

Since he had retired from the sea he had been astonished to discover that the educated people were not much better than the others. No one seemed to take any proper pride in his work: from plumbers who were simply thieves to, say, newspaper men (he seemed to think them a specially intellectual class) who never by any chance gave a correct version of the simplest affair. This universal inefficiency of what he called “the shore gang” he ascribed in general to the want of responsibility and to a sense of security.

“They see,” he went on, “that no matter what they do this tight little island won’t turn turtle with them or spring a leak and go to the bottom with their wives and children.”

From this point the conversation took a special turn relating exclusively to sea-life. On that subject he got quickly in touch with Marlow who in his time had followed the sea. They kept up a lively exchange of reminiscences while I listened. They agreed that the happiest time in their lives was as youngsters in good ships, with no care in the world but not to lose a watch below when at sea and not a moment’s time in going ashore after work hours when in harbour. They agreed also as to the proudest moment they had known in that calling which is never embraced on rational and practical grounds, because of the glamour of its romantic associations. It was the moment when they had passed successfully their first examination and left the seamanship Examiner with the little precious slip of blue paper in their hands.

“That day I wouldn’t have called the Queen my cousin,” declared our new acquaintance enthusiastically.

At that time the Marine Board examinations took place at the St. Katherine’s Dock House on Tower Hill, and he informed us that he had a special affection for the view of that historic locality, with the Gardens to the left, the front of the Mint to the right, the miserable tumble-down little houses farther away, a cabstand, boot-blacks squatting on the edge of the pavement and a pair of big policemen gazing with an air of superiority at the doors of the Black Horse public-house across the road. This was the part of the world, he said, his eyes first took notice of, on the finest day of his life. He had emerged from the main entrance of St. Katherine’s Dock House a full-fledged second mate after the hottest time of his life with Captain R-, the most dreaded of the three seamanship Examiners who at the time were responsible for the merchant service officers qualifying in the Port of London.

“We all who were preparing to pass,” he said, “used to shake in our shoes at the idea of going before him. He kept me for an hour and a half in the torture chamber and behaved as though he hated me. He kept his eyes shaded with one of his hands. Suddenly he let it drop saying, “You will do!” Before I realised what he meant he was pushing the blue slip across the table. I jumped up as if my chair had caught fire.

“Thank you, sir,” says I, grabbing the paper.

“Good morning, good luck to you,” he growls at me.

“The old doorkeeper fussed out of the cloak-room with my hat. They always do. But he looked very hard at me before he ventured to ask in a sort of timid whisper: “Got through all right, sir?” For all answer I dropped a half-crown into his soft broad palm. “Well,” says he with a sudden grin from ear to ear, “I never knew him keep any of you gentlemen so long. He failed two second mates this morning before your turn came. Less than twenty minutes each: that’s about his usual time.”

“I found myself downstairs without being aware of the steps as if I had floated down the staircase. The finest day in my life. The day you get your first command is nothing to it. For one thing a man is not so young then and for another with us, you know, there is nothing much more to expect. Yes, the finest day of one’s life, no doubt, but then it is just a day and no more. What comes after is about the most unpleasant time for a youngster, the trying to get an officer’s berth with nothing much to show but a brand-new certificate. It is surprising how useless you find that piece of ass’s skin that you have been putting yourself in such a state about. It didn’t strike me at the time that a Board of Trade certificate does not make an officer, not by a long long way. But the slippers of the ships I was haunting with demands for a job knew that very well. I don’t wonder at them now, and I don’t blame them either. But this ‘trying to get a ship’ is pretty hard on a youngster all the same . . . “

He went on then to tell us how tired he was and how discouraged by this lesson of disillusion following swiftly upon the finest day of his life. He told us how he went the round of all the ship-owners’ offices in the City where some junior clerk would furnish him with printed forms of application which he took home to fill up in the evening. He used to run out just before midnight to post them in the nearest pillar-box. And that was all that ever came of it. In his own words: he might just as well have dropped them all properly addressed and stamped into the sewer grating.

Then one day, as he was wending his weary way to the docks, he met a friend and former shipmate a little older than himself outside the Fenchurch Street Railway Station.

He craved for sympathy but his friend had just “got a ship” that very morning and was hurrying home in a state of outward joy and inward uneasiness usual to a sailor who after many days of waiting suddenly gets a berth. This friend had the time to condole with him but briefly. He must be moving. Then as he was running off, over his shoulder as it were, he suggested: “Why don’t you go and speak to Mr. Powell in the Shipping Office.” Our friend objected that he did not know Mr. Powell from Adam. And the other already pretty near round the corner shouted back advice: “Go to the private door of the Shipping Office and walk right up to him. His desk is by the window. Go up boldly and say I sent you.”

Our new acquaintance looking from one to the other of us declared: “Upon my word, I had grown so desperate that I’d have gone boldly up to the devil himself on the mere hint that he had a second mate’s job to give away.”

It was at this point that interrupting his flow of talk to light his pipe but holding us with his eye he inquired whether we had known Powell. Marlow with a slight reminiscent smile murmured that he “remembered him very well.”

Then there was a pause. Our new acquaintance had become involved in a vexatious difficulty with his pipe which had suddenly betrayed his trust and disappointed his anticipation of self-indulgence. To keep the ball rolling I asked Marlow if this Powell was remarkable in any way.

“He was not exactly remarkable,” Marlow answered with his usual nonchalance. “In a general way it’s very difficult for one to become remarkable. People won’t take sufficient notice of one, don’t you know. I remember Powell so well simply because as one of the Shipping Masters in the Port of London he dispatched me to sea on several long stages of my sailor’s pilgrimage. He resembled Socrates. I mean he resembled him genuinely: that is in the face. A philosophical mind is but an accident. He reproduced exactly the familiar bust of the immortal sage, if you will imagine the bust with a high top hat riding far on the back of the head, and a black coat over the shoulders. As I never saw him except from the other side of the long official counter bearing the five writing desks of the five Shipping Masters, Mr. Powell has remained a bust to me.”

Our new acquaintance advanced now from the mantelpiece with his pipe in good working order.

“What was the most remarkable about Powell,” he enunciated dogmatically with his head in a cloud of smoke, “is that he should have had just that name. You see, my name happens to be Powell too.”

It was clear that this intelligence was not imparted to us for social purposes. It required no acknowledgment. We continued to gaze at him with expectant eyes.

He gave himself up to the vigorous enjoyment of his pipe for a silent minute or two. Then picking up the thread of his story he told us how he had started hot foot for Tower Hill. He had not been that way since the day of his examination — the finest day of his life — the day of his overweening pride. It was very different now. He would not have called the Queen his cousin, still, but this time it was from a sense of profound abasement. He didn’t think himself good enough for anybody’s kinship. He envied the purple-nosed old cab-drivers on the stand, the boot-black boys at the edge of the pavement, the two large bobbies pacing slowly along the Tower Gardens railings in the consciousness of their infallible might, and the bright scarlet sentries walking smartly to and fro before the Mint. He envied them their places in the scheme of world’s labour. And he envied also the miserable sallow, thin-faced loafers blinking their obscene eyes and rubbing their greasy shoulders against the door-jambs of the Black Horse pub, because they were too far gone to feel their degradation.

I must render the man the justice that he conveyed very well to us the sense of his youthful hopelessness surprised at not finding its place in the sun and no recognition of its right to live.

He went up the outer steps of St. Katherine’s Dock House, the very steps from which he had some six weeks before surveyed the cabstand, the buildings, the policemen, the boot-blacks, the paint, gilt, and plateglass of the Black Horse, with the eye of a Conqueror. At the time he had been at the bottom of his heart surprised that all this had not greeted him with songs and incense, but now (he made no secret of it) he made his entry in a slinking fashion past the doorkeeper’s glass box. “I hadn’t any half-crowns to spare for tips,” he remarked grimly. The man, however, ran out after him asking: “What do you require?” but with a grateful glance up at the first floor in remembrance of Captain R-’s examination room (how easy and delightful all that had been) he bolted down a flight leading to the basement and found himself in a place of dusk and mystery and many doors. He had been afraid of being stopped by some rule of no-admittance. However he was not pursued.

The basement of St. Katherine’s Dock House is vast in extent and confusing in its plan. Pale shafts of light slant from above into the gloom of its chilly passages. Powell wandered up and down there like an early Christian refugee in the catacombs; but what little faith he had in the success of his enterprise was oozing out at his finger-tips. At a dark turn under a gas bracket whose flame was half turned down his self-confidence abandoned him altogether.

“I stood there to think a little,” he said. “A foolish thing to do because of course I got scared. What could you expect? It takes some nerve to tackle a stranger with a request for a favour. I wished my namesake Powell had been the devil himself. I felt somehow it would have been an easier job. You see, I never believed in the devil enough to be scared of him; but a man can make himself very unpleasant. I looked at a lot of doors, all shut tight, with a growing conviction that I would never have the pluck to open one of them. Thinking’s no good for one’s nerve. I concluded I would give up the whole business. But I didn’t give up in the end, and I’ll tell you what stopped me. It was the recollection of that confounded doorkeeper who had called after me. I felt sure the fellow would be on the look-out at the head of the stairs. If he asked me what I had been after, as he had the right to do, I wouldn’t know what to answer that wouldn’t make me look silly if no worse. I got very hot. There was no chance of slinking out of this business.

“I had lost my bearings somehow down there. Of the many doors of various sizes, right and left, a good few had glazed lights above; some however must have led merely into lumber rooms or such like, because when I brought myself to try one or two I was disconcerted to find that they were locked. I stood there irresolute and uneasy like a baffled thief. The confounded basement was as still as a grave and I became aware of my heart beats. Very uncomfortable sensation. Never happened to me before or since. A bigger door to the left of me, with a large brass handle looked as if it might lead into the Shipping Office. I tried it, setting my teeth. “Here goes!”

“It came open quite easily. And lo! the place it opened into was hardly any bigger than a cupboard. Anyhow it wasn’t more than ten feet by twelve; and as I in a way expected to see the big shadowy cellar-like extent of the Shipping Office where I had been once or twice before, I was extremely startled. A gas bracket hung from the middle of the ceiling over a dark, shabby writing-desk covered with a litter of yellowish dusty documents. Under the flame of the single burner which made the place ablaze with light, a plump, little man was writing hard, his nose very near the desk. His head was perfectly bald and about the same drab tint as the papers. He appeared pretty dusty too.

“I didn’t notice whether there were any cobwebs on him, but I shouldn’t wonder if there were because he looked as though he had been imprisoned for years in that little hole. The way he dropped his pen and sat blinking my way upset me very much. And his dungeon was hot and musty; it smelt of gas and mushrooms, and seemed to be somewhere 120 feet below the ground. Solid, heavy stacks of paper filled all the corners half-way up to the ceiling. And when the thought flashed upon me that these were the premises of the Marine Board and that this fellow must be connected in some way with ships and sailors and the sea, my astonishment took my breath away. One couldn’t imagine why the Marine Board should keep that bald, fat creature slaving down there. For some reason or other I felt sorry and ashamed to have found him out in his wretched captivity. I asked gently and sorrowfully: “The Shipping Office, please.”

He piped up in a contemptuous squeaky voice which made me start: “Not here. Try the passage on the other side. Street side. This is the Dock side. You’ve lost your way . . . “

He spoke in such a spiteful tone that I thought he was going to round off with the words: “You fool” . . . and perhaps he meant to. But what he finished sharply with was: “Shut the door quietly after you.”

And I did shut it quietly — you bet. Quick and quiet. The indomitable spirit of that chap impressed me. I wonder sometimes whether he has succeeded in writing himself into liberty and a pension at last, or had to go out of his gas-lighted grave straight into that other dark one where nobody would want to intrude. My humanity was pleased to discover he had so much kick left in him, but I was not comforted in the least. It occurred to me that if Mr. Powell had the same sort of temper . . . However, I didn’t give myself time to think and scuttled across the space at the foot of the stairs into the passage where I’d been told to try. And I tried the first door I came to, right away, without any hanging back, because coming loudly from the hall above an amazed and scandalized voice wanted to know what sort of game I was up to down there. “Don’t you know there’s no admittance that way?” it roared. But if there was anything more I shut it out of my hearing by means of a door marked Private on the outside. It let me into a six-feet wide strip between a long counter and the wall, taken off a spacious, vaulted room with a grated window and a glazed door giving daylight to the further end. The first thing I saw right in front of me were three middle-aged men having a sort of romp together round about another fellow with a thin, long neck and sloping shoulders who stood up at a desk writing on a large sheet of paper and taking no notice except that he grinned quietly to himself. They turned very sour at once when they saw me. I heard one of them mutter ‘Hullo! What have we here?’

“‘I want to see Mr. Powell, please,’ I said, very civil but firm; I would let nothing scare me away now. This was the Shipping Office right enough. It was after 3 o’clock and the business seemed over for the day with them. The long-necked fellow went on with his writing steadily. I observed that he was no longer grinning. The three others tossed their heads all together towards the far end of the room where a fifth man had been looking on at their antics from a high stool. I walked up to him as boldly as if he had been the devil himself. With one foot raised up and resting on the cross-bar of his seat he never stopped swinging the other which was well clear of the stone floor. He had unbuttoned the top of his waistcoat and he wore his tall hat very far at the back of his head. He had a full unwrinkled face and such clear-shining eyes that his grey beard looked quite false on him, stuck on for a disguise. You said just now he resembled Socrates — didn’t you? I don’t know about that. This Socrates was a wise man, I believe?”

“He was,” assented Marlow. “And a true friend of youth. He lectured them in a peculiarly exasperating manner. It was a way he had.”

“Then give me Powell every time,” declared our new acquaintance sturdily. “He didn’t lecture me in any way. Not he. He said: ‘How do you do?’ quite kindly to my mumble. Then says he looking very hard at me: ‘I don’t think I know you — do I?’

“No, sir,” I said and down went my heart sliding into my boots, just as the time had come to summon up all my cheek. There’s nothing meaner in the world than a piece of impudence that isn’t carried off well. For fear of appearing shamefaced I started about it so free and easy as almost to frighten myself. He listened for a while looking at my face with surprise and curiosity and then held up his hand. I was glad enough to shut up, I can tell you.

“Well, you are a cool hand,” says he. “And that friend of yours too. He pestered me coming here every day for a fortnight till a captain I’m acquainted with was good enough to give him a berth. And no sooner he’s provided for than he turns you on. You youngsters don’t seem to mind whom you get into trouble.”

“It was my turn now to stare with surprise and curiosity. He hadn’t been talking loud but he lowered his voice still more.

“Don’t you know it’s illegal?”

“I wondered what he was driving at till I remembered that procuring a berth for a sailor is a penal offence under the Act. That clause was directed of course against the swindling practices of the boarding-house crimps. It had never struck me it would apply to everybody alike no matter what the motive, because I believed then that people on shore did their work with care and foresight.

“I was confounded at the idea, but Mr. Powell made me soon see that an Act of Parliament hasn’t any sense of its own. It has only the sense that’s put into it; and that’s precious little sometimes. He didn’t mind helping a young man to a ship now and then, he said, but if we kept on coming constantly it would soon get about that he was doing it for money.

“A pretty thing that would be: the Senior Shipping-Master of the Port of London hauled up in a police court and fined fifty pounds,” says he. “I’ve another four years to serve to get my pension. It could be made to look very black against me and don’t you make any mistake about it,” he says.

“And all the time with one knee well up he went on swinging his other leg like a boy on a gate and looking at me very straight with his shining eyes. I was confounded I tell you. It made me sick to hear him imply that somebody would make a report against him.

“Oh!” I asked shocked, “who would think of such a scurvy trick, sir?” I was half disgusted with him for having the mere notion of it.

“Who?” says he, speaking very low. “Anybody. One of the office messengers maybe. I’ve risen to be the Senior of this office and we are all very good friends here, but don’t you think that my colleague that sits next to me wouldn’t like to go up to this desk by the window four years in advance of the regulation time? Or even one year for that matter. It’s human nature.”

“I could not help turning my head. The three fellows who had been skylarking when I came in were now talking together very soberly, and the long-necked chap was going on with his writing still. He seemed to me the most dangerous of the lot. I saw him sideface and his lips were set very tight. I had never looked at mankind in that light before. When one’s young human nature shocks one. But what startled me most was to see the door I had come through open slowly and give passage to a head in a uniform cap with a Board of Trade badge. It was that blamed old doorkeeper from the hall. He had run me to earth and meant to dig me out too. He walked up the office smirking craftily, cap in hand.

“What is it, Symons?” asked Mr. Powell.

“I was only wondering where this ‘ere gentleman ‘ad gone to, sir. He slipped past me upstairs, sir.”

I felt mighty uncomfortable.

“That’s all right, Symons. I know the gentleman,” says Mr. Powell as serious as a judge.

“Very well, sir. Of course, sir. I saw the gentleman running races all by ‘isself down ‘ere, so I . . .”

“It’s all right I tell you,” Mr. Powell cut him short with a wave of his hand; and, as the old fraud walked off at last, he raised his eyes to me. I did not know what to do: stay there, or clear out, or say that I was sorry.

“Let’s see,” says he, “what did you tell me your name was?”

“Now, observe, I hadn’t given him my name at all and his question embarrassed me a bit. Somehow or other it didn’t seem proper for me to fling his own name at him as it were. So I merely pulled out my new certificate from my pocket and put it into his hand unfolded, so that he could read Charles Powell written very plain on the parchment.

“He dropped his eyes on to it and after a while laid it quietly on the desk by his side. I didn’t know whether he meant to make any remark on this coincidence. Before he had time to say anything the glass door came open with a bang and a tall, active man rushed in with great strides. His face looked very red below his high silk hat. You could see at once he was the skipper of a big ship.

“Mr. Powell after telling me in an undertone to wait a little addressed him in a friendly way.

“I’ve been expecting you in every moment to fetch away your Articles, Captain. Here they are all ready for you.” And turning to a pile of agreements lying at his elbow he took up the topmost of them. From where I stood I could read the words: “Ship Ferndale” written in a large round hand on the first page.

“No, Mr. Powell, they aren’t ready, worse luck,” says that skipper. “I’ve got to ask you to strike out my second officer.” He seemed excited and bothered. He explained that his second mate had been working on board all the morning. At one o’clock he went out to get a bit of dinner and didn’t turn up at two as he ought to have done. Instead there came a messenger from the hospital with a note signed by a doctor. Collar bone and one arm broken. Let himself be knocked down by a pair horse van while crossing the road outside the dock gate, as if he had neither eyes nor ears. And the ship ready to leave the dock at six o’clock to-morrow morning!

“Mr. Powell dipped his pen and began to turn the leaves of the agreement over. “We must then take his name off,” he says in a kind of unconcerned sing-song.

“What am I to do?” burst out the skipper. “This office closes at four o’clock. I can’t find a man in half an hour.”

“This office closes at four,” repeats Mr. Powell glancing up and down the pages and touching up a letter here and there with perfect indifference.

“Even if I managed to lay hold some time to-day of a man ready to go at such short notice I couldn’t ship him regularly here — could I?”

“Mr. Powell was busy drawing his pen through the entries relating to that unlucky second mate and making a note in the margin.

“You could sign him on yourself on board,” says he without looking up. “But I don’t think you’ll find easily an officer for such a pier-head jump.”

“Upon this the fine-looking skipper gave signs of distress. The ship mustn’t miss the next morning’s tide. He had to take on board forty tons of dynamite and a hundred and twenty tons of gunpowder at a place down the river before proceeding to sea. It was all arranged for next day. There would be no end of fuss and complications if the ship didn’t turn up in time . . . I couldn’t help hearing all this, while wishing him to take himself off, because I wanted to know why Mr. Powell had told me to wait. After what he had been saying there didn’t seem any object in my hanging about. If I had had my certificate in my pocket I should have tried to slip away quietly; but Mr. Powell had turned about into the same position I found him in at first and was again swinging his leg. My certificate open on the desk was under his left elbow and I couldn’t very well go up and jerk it away.

“I don’t know,” says he carelessly, addressing the helpless captain but looking fixedly at me with an expression as if I hadn’t been there. “I don’t know whether I ought to tell you that I know of a disengaged second mate at hand.”

“Do you mean you’ve got him here?” shouts the other looking all over the empty public part of the office as if he were ready to fling himself bodily upon anything resembling a second mate. He had been so full of his difficulty that I verify believe he had never noticed me. Or perhaps seeing me inside he may have thought I was some understrapper belonging to the place. But when Mr. Powell nodded in my direction he became very quiet and gave me a long stare. Then he stooped to Mr. Powell’s ear — I suppose he imagined he was whispering, but I heard him well enough.

“Looks very respectable.”

“Certainly,” says the shipping-master quite calm and staring all the time at me. “His name’s Powell.”

“Oh, I see!” says the skipper as if struck all of a heap. “But is he ready to join at once?”

“I had a sort of vision of my lodgings — in the North of London, too, beyond Dalston, away to the devil — and all my gear scattered about, and my empty sea-chest somewhere in an outhouse the good people I was staying with had at the end of their sooty strip of garden. I heard the Shipping Master say in the coolest sort of way:

“He’ll sleep on board to-night.”

“He had better,” says the Captain of the Ferndale very businesslike, as if the whole thing were settled. I can’t say I was dumb for joy as you may suppose. It wasn’t exactly that. I was more by way of being out of breath with the quickness of it. It didn’t seem possible that this was happening to me. But the skipper, after he had talked for a while with Mr. Powell, too low for me to hear became visibly perplexed.

“I suppose he had heard I was freshly passed and without experience as an officer, because he turned about and looked me over as if I had been exposed for sale.

“He’s young,” he mutters. “Looks smart, though . . . You’re smart and willing (this to me very sudden and loud) and all that, aren’t you?”

“I just managed to open and shut my mouth, no more, being taken unawares. But it was enough for him. He made as if I had deafened him with protestations of my smartness and willingness.

“Of course, of course. All right.” And then turning to the Shipping Master who sat there swinging his leg, he said that he certainly couldn’t go to sea without a second officer. I stood by as if all these things were happening to some other chap whom I was seeing through with it. Mr. Powell stared at me with those shining eyes of his. But that bothered skipper turns upon me again as though he wanted to snap my head off.

“You aren’t too big to be told how to do things — are you? You’ve a lot to learn yet though you mayn’t think so.”

“I had half a mind to save my dignity by telling him that if it was my seamanship he was alluding to I wanted him to understand that a fellow who had survived being turned inside out for an hour and a half by Captain R- was equal to any demand his old ship was likely to make on his competence. However he didn’t give me a chance to make that sort of fool of myself because before I could open my mouth he had gone round on another tack and was addressing himself affably to Mr. Powell who swinging his leg never took his eyes off me.

“I’ll take your young friend willingly, Mr. Powell. If you let him sign on as second-mate at once I’ll take the Articles away with me now.”

“It suddenly dawned upon me that the innocent skipper of the Ferndale had taken it for granted that I was a relative of the Shipping Master! I was quite astonished at this discovery, though indeed the mistake was natural enough under the circumstances. What I ought to have admired was the reticence with which this misunderstanding had been established and acted upon. But I was too stupid then to admire anything. All my anxiety was that this should be cleared up. I was ass enough to wonder exceedingly at Mr. Powell failing to notice the misapprehension. I saw a slight twitch come and go on his face; but instead of setting right that mistake the Shipping Master swung round on his stool and addressed me as ‘Charles.’ He did. And I detected him taking a hasty squint at my certificate just before, because clearly till he did so he was not sure of my christian name. “Now then come round in front of the desk, Charles,” says he in a loud voice.

“Charles! At first, I declare to you, it didn’t seem possible that he was addressing himself to me. I even looked round for that Charles but there was nobody behind me except the thin-necked chap still hard at his writing, and the other three Shipping Masters who were changing their coats and reaching for their hats, making ready to go home. It was the industrious thin-necked man who without laying down his pen lifted with his left hand a flap near his desk and said kindly:

“Pass this way.”

I walked through in a trance, faced Mr. Powell, from whom I learned that we were bound to Port Elizabeth first, and signed my name on the Articles of the ship Ferndale as second mate — the voyage not to exceed two years.

“You won’t fail to join — eh?” says the captain anxiously. “It would cause no end of trouble and expense if you did. You’ve got a good six hours to get your gear together, and then you’ll have time to snatch a sleep on board before the crew joins in the morning.”

“It was easy enough for him to talk of getting ready in six hours for a voyage that was not to exceed two years. He hadn’t to do that trick himself, and with his sea-chest locked up in an outhouse the key of which had been mislaid for a week as I remembered. But neither was I much concerned. The idea that I was absolutely going to sea at six o’clock next morning hadn’t got quite into my head yet. It had been too sudden.

“Mr. Powell, slipping the Articles into a long envelope, spoke up with a sort of cold half-laugh without looking at either of us.

“Mind you don’t disgrace the name, Charles.”

“And the skipper chimes in very kindly:

“He’ll do well enough I dare say. I’ll look after him a bit.”

“Upon this he grabs the Articles, says something about trying to run in for a minute to see that poor devil in the hospital, and off he goes with his heavy swinging step after telling me sternly: “Don’t you go like that poor fellow and get yourself run over by a cart as if you hadn’t either eyes or ears.”

“Mr. Powell,” says I timidly (there was by then only the thin-necked man left in the office with us and he was already by the door, standing on one leg to turn the bottom of his trousers up before going away). “Mr. Powell,” says I, “I believe the Captain of the Ferndale was thinking all the time that I was a relation of yours.”

“I was rather concerned about the propriety of it, you know, but Mr. Powell didn’t seem to be in the least.

“Did he?” says he. “That’s funny, because it seems to me too that I’ve been a sort of good uncle to several of you young fellows lately. Don’t you think so yourself? However, if you don’t like it you may put him right — when you get out to sea.” At this I felt a bit queer. Mr. Powell had rendered me a very good service:- because it’s a fact that with us merchant sailors the first voyage as officer is the real start in life. He had given me no less than that. I told him warmly that he had done for me more that day than all my relations put together ever did.

“Oh, no, no,” says he. “I guess it’s that shipment of explosives waiting down the river which has done most for you. Forty tons of dynamite have been your best friend to-day, young man.”

“That was true too, perhaps. Anyway I saw clearly enough that I had nothing to thank myself for. But as I tried to thank him, he checked my stammering.

“Don’t be in a hurry to thank me,” says he. “The voyage isn’t finished yet.”

Our new acquaintance paused, then added meditatively: “Queer man. As if it made any difference. Queer man.”

“It’s certainly unwise to admit any sort of responsibility for our actions, whose consequences we are never able to foresee,” remarked Marlow by way of assent.

“The consequence of his action was that I got a ship,” said the other. “That could not do much harm,” he added with a laugh which argued a probably unconscious contempt of general ideas.

But Marlow was not put off. He was patient and reflective. He had been at sea many years and I verily believe he liked sea-life because upon the whole it is favourable to reflection. I am speaking of the now nearly vanished sea-life under sail. To those who may be surprised at the statement I will point out that this life secured for the mind of him who embraced it the inestimable advantages of solitude and silence. Marlow had the habit of pursuing general ideas in a peculiar manner, between jest and earnest.

“Oh, I wouldn’t suggest,” he said, “that your namesake Mr. Powell, the Shipping Master, had done you much harm. Such was hardly his intention. And even if it had been he would not have had the power. He was but a man, and the incapacity to achieve anything distinctly good or evil is inherent in our earthly condition. Mediocrity is our mark. And perhaps it’s just as well, since, for the most part, we cannot be certain of the effect of our actions.”

“I don’t know about the effect,” the other stood up to Marlow manfully. “What effect did you expect anyhow? I tell you he did something uncommonly kind.”

“He did what he could,” Marlow retorted gently, “and on his own showing that was not a very great deal. I cannot help thinking that there was some malice in the way he seized the opportunity to serve you. He managed to make you uncomfortable. You wanted to go to sea, but he jumped at the chance of accommodating your desire with a vengeance. I am inclined to think your cheek alarmed him. And this was an excellent occasion to suppress you altogether. For if you accepted he was relieved of you with every appearance of humanity, and if you made objections (after requesting his assistance, mind you) it was open to him to drop you as a sort of impostor. You might have had to decline that berth for some very valid reason. From sheer necessity perhaps. The notice was too uncommonly short. But under the circumstances you’d have covered yourself with ignominy.”

Our new friend knocked the ashes out of his pipe.

“Quite a mistake,” he said. “I am not of the declining sort, though I’ll admit it was something like telling a man that you would like a bath and in consequence being instantly knocked overboard to sink or swim with your clothes on. However, I didn’t feel as if I were in deep water at first. I left the shipping office quietly and for a time strolled along the street as easy as if I had a week before me to fit myself out. But by and by I reflected that the notice was even shorter than it looked. The afternoon was well advanced; I had some things to get, a lot of small matters to attend to, one or two persons to see. One of them was an aunt of mine, my only relation, who quarrelled with poor father as long as he lived about some silly matter that had neither right nor wrong to it. She left her money to me when she died. I used always to go and see her for decency’s sake. I had so much to do before night that I didn’t know where to begin. I felt inclined to sit down on the kerb and hold my head in my hands. It was as if an engine had been started going under my skull. Finally I sat down in the first cab that came along and it was a hard matter to keep on sitting there I can tell you, while we rolled up and down the streets, pulling up here and there, the parcels accumulating round me and the engine in my head gathering more way every minute. The composure of the people on the pavements was provoking to a degree, and as to the people in shops, they were benumbed, more than half frozen — imbecile. Funny how it affects you to be in a peculiar state of mind: everybody that does not act up to your excitement seems so confoundedly unfriendly. And my state of mind what with the hurry, the worry and a growing exultation was peculiar enough. That engine in my head went round at its top speed hour after hour till eleven at about at night it let up on me suddenly at the entrance to the Dock before large iron gates in a dead wall.”

* * * * *

These gates were closed and locked. The cabby, after shooting his things off the roof of his machine into young Powell’s arms, drove away leaving him alone with his sea-chest, a sail cloth bag and a few parcels on the pavement about his feet. It was a dark, narrow thoroughfare he told us. A mean row of houses on the other side looked empty: there wasn’t the smallest gleam of light in them. The white-hot glare of a gin palace a good way off made the intervening piece of the street pitch black. Some human shapes appearing mysteriously, as if they had sprung up from the dark ground, shunned the edge of the faint light thrown down by the gateway lamps. These figures were wary in their movements and perfectly silent of foot, like beasts of prey slinking about a camp fire. Powell gathered up his belongings and hovered over them like a hen over her brood. A gruffly insinuating voice said:

“Let’s carry your things in, Capt’in! I’ve got my pal ‘ere.”

He was a tall, bony, grey-haired ruffian with a bulldog jaw, in a torn cotton shirt and moleskin trousers. The shadow of his hobnailed boots was enormous and coffinlike. His pal, who didn’t come up much higher than his elbow, stepping forward exhibited a pale face with a long drooping nose and no chin to speak of. He seemed to have just scrambled out of a dust-bin in a tam-o’shanter cap and a tattered soldier’s coat much too long for him. Being so deadly white he looked like a horrible dirty invalid in a ragged dressing gown. The coat flapped open in front and the rest of his apparel consisted of one brace which crossed his naked, bony chest, and a pair of trousers. He blinked rapidly as if dazed by the faint light, while his patron, the old bandit, glowered at young Powell from under his beetling brow.

“Say the word, Capt’in. The bobby’ll let us in all right. ‘E knows both of us.”

“I didn’t answer him,” continued Mr. Powell. “I was listening to footsteps on the other side of the gate, echoing between the walls of the warehouses as if in an uninhabited town of very high buildings dark from basement to roof. You could never have guessed that within a stone’s throw there was an open sheet of water and big ships lying afloat. The few gas lamps showing up a bit of brick work here and there, appeared in the blackness like penny dips in a range of cellars — and the solitary footsteps came on, tramp, tramp. A dock policeman strode into the light on the other side of the gate, very broad-chested and stern.

“Hallo! What’s up here?”

“He was really surprised, but after some palaver he let me in together with the two loafers carrying my luggage. He grumbled at them however and slammed the gate violently with a loud clang. I was startled to discover how many night prowlers had collected in the darkness of the street in such a short time and without my being aware of it. Directly we were through they came surging against the bars, silent, like a mob of ugly spectres. But suddenly, up the street somewhere, perhaps near that public-house, a row started as if Bedlam had broken loose: shouts, yells, an awful shrill shriek — and at that noise all these heads vanished from behind the bars.

“Look at this,” marvelled the constable. “It’s a wonder to me they didn’t make off with your things while you were waiting.”

“I would have taken good care of that,” I said defiantly. But the constable wasn’t impressed.

“Much you would have done. The bag going off round one dark corner; the chest round another. Would you have run two ways at once? And anyhow you’d have been tripped up and jumped upon before you had run three yards. I tell you you’ve had a most extraordinary chance that there wasn’t one of them regular boys about to-night, in the High Street, to twig your loaded cab go by. Ted here is honest . . . You are on the honest lay, Ted, ain’t you?”

“Always was, orficer,” said the big ruffian with feeling. The other frail creature seemed dumb and only hopped about with the edge of its soldier coat touching the ground.

“Oh yes, I dare say,” said the constable. “Now then, forward, march . . . He’s that because he ain’t game for the other thing,” he confided to me. “He hasn’t got the nerve for it. However, I ain’t going to lose sight of them two till they go out through the gate. That little chap’s a devil. He’s got the nerve for anything, only he hasn’t got the muscle. Well! Well! You’ve had a chance to get in with a whole skin and with all your things.”

“I was incredulous a little. It seemed impossible that after getting ready with so much hurry and inconvenience I should have lost my chance of a start in life from such a cause. I asked:

“Does that sort of thing happen often so near the dock gates?”

“Often! No! Of course not often. But it ain’t often either that a man comes along with a cabload of things to join a ship at this time of night. I’ve been in the dock police thirteen years and haven’t seen it done once.”

“Meantime we followed my sea-chest which was being carried down a sort of deep narrow lane, separating two high warehouses, between honest Ted and his little devil of a pal who had to keep up a trot to the other’s stride. The skirt of his soldier’s coat floating behind him nearly swept the ground so that he seemed to be running on castors. At the corner of the gloomy passage a rigged jib boom with a dolphin-striker ending in an arrow-head stuck out of the night close to a cast iron lamp-post. It was the quay side. They set down their load in the light and honest Ted asked hoarsely:

“Where’s your ship, guv’nor?”

“I didn’t know. The constable was interested at my ignorance.

“Don’t know where your ship is?” he asked with curiosity. “And you the second officer! Haven’t you been working on board of her?”

“I couldn’t explain that the only work connected with my appointment was the work of chance. I told him briefly that I didn’t know her at all. At this he remarked:

“So I see. Here she is, right before you. That’s her.”

“At once the head-gear in the gas light inspired me with interest and respect; the spars were big, the chains and ropes stout and the whole thing looked powerful and trustworthy. Barely touched by the light her bows rose faintly alongside the narrow strip of the quay; the rest of her was a black smudge in the darkness. Here I was face to face with my start in life. We walked in a body a few steps on a greasy pavement between her side and the towering wall of a warehouse and I hit my shins cruelly against the end of the gangway. The constable hailed her quietly in a bass undertone ‘Ferndale there!’ A feeble and dismal sound, something in the nature of a buzzing groan, answered from behind the bulwarks.

“I distinguished vaguely an irregular round knob, of wood, perhaps, resting on the rail. It did not move in the least; but as another broken-down buzz like a still fainter echo of the first dismal sound proceeded from it I concluded it must be the head of the ship-keeper. The stalwart constable jeered in a mock-official manner.

“Second officer coming to join. Move yourself a bit.”

“The truth of the statement touched me in the pit of the stomach (you know that’s the spot where emotion gets home on a man) for it was borne upon me that really and truly I was nothing but a second officer of a ship just like any other second officer, to that constable. I was moved by this solid evidence of my new dignity. Only his tone offended me. Nevertheless I gave him the tip he was looking for. Thereupon he lost all interest in me, humorous or otherwise, and walked away driving sternly before him the honest Ted, who went off grumbling to himself like a hungry ogre, and his horrible dumb little pal in the soldier’s coat, who, from first to last, never emitted the slightest sound.

“It was very dark on the quarter deck of the Ferndale between the deep bulwarks overshadowed by the break of the poop and frowned upon by the front of the warehouse. I plumped down on to my chest near the after hatch as if my legs had been jerked from under me. I felt suddenly very tired and languid. The ship-keeper, whom I could hardly make out hung over the capstan in a fit of weak pitiful coughing. He gasped out very low ‘Oh! dear! Oh! dear!’ and struggled for breath so long that I got up alarmed and irresolute.

“I’ve been took like this since last Christmas twelvemonth. It ain’t nothing.”

“He seemed a hundred years old at least. I never saw him properly because he was gone ashore and out of sight when I came on deck in the morning; but he gave me the notion of the feeblest creature that ever breathed. His voice was thin like the buzzing of a mosquito. As it would have been cruel to demand assistance from such a shadowy wreck I went to work myself, dragging my chest along a pitch-black passage under the poop deck, while he sighed and moaned around me as if my exertions were more than his weakness could stand. At last as I banged pretty heavily against the bulkheads he warned me in his faint breathless wheeze to be more careful.

“What’s the matter?” I asked rather roughly, not relishing to be admonished by this forlorn broken-down ghost.

“Nothing! Nothing, sir,” he protested so hastily that he lost his poor breath again and I felt sorry for him. “Only the captain and his missus are sleeping on board. She’s a lady that mustn’t be disturbed. They came about half-past eight, and we had a permit to have lights in the cabin till ten to-night.”

“This struck me as a considerable piece of news. I had never been in a ship where the captain had his wife with him. I’d heard fellows say that captains’ wives could work a lot of mischief on board ship if they happened to take a dislike to anyone; especially the new wives if young and pretty. The old and experienced wives on the other hand fancied they knew more about the ship than the skipper himself and had an eye like a hawk’s for what went on. They were like an extra chief mate of a particularly sharp and unfeeling sort who made his report in the evening. The best of them were a nuisance. In the general opinion a skipper with his wife on board was more difficult to please; but whether to show off his authority before an admiring female or from loving anxiety for her safety or simply from irritation at her presence — nobody I ever heard on the subject could tell for certain.

“After I had bundled in my things somehow I struck a match and had a dazzling glimpse of my berth; then I pitched the roll of my bedding into the bunk but took no trouble to spread it out. I wasn’t sleepy now, neither was I tired. And the thought that I was done with the earth for many many months to come made me feel very quiet and self-contained as it were. Sailors will understand what I mean.”

Marlow nodded. “It is a strictly professional feeling,” he commented. “But other professions or trades know nothing of it. It is only this calling whose primary appeal lies in the suggestion of restless adventure which holds out that deep sensation to those who embrace it. It is difficult to define, I admit.”

“I should call it the peace of the sea,” said Mr. Charles Powell in an earnest tone but looking at us as though he expected to be met by a laugh of derision and were half prepared to salve his reputation for common sense by joining in it. But neither of us laughed at Mr. Charles Powell in whose start in life we had been called to take a part. He was lucky in his audience.

“A very good name,” said Marlow looking at him approvingly. “A sailor finds a deep feeling of security in the exercise of his calling. The exacting life of the sea has this advantage over the life of the earth that its claims are simple and cannot be evaded.”

“Gospel truth,” assented Mr. Powell. “No! they cannot be evaded.”

That an excellent understanding should have established itself between my old friend and our new acquaintance was remarkable enough. For they were exactly dissimilar — one individuality projecting itself in length and the other in breadth, which is already a sufficient ground for irreconcilable difference. Marlow who was lanky, loose, quietly composed in varied shades of brown robbed of every vestige of gloss, had a narrow, veiled glance, the neutral bearing and the secret irritability which go together with a predisposition to congestion of the liver. The other, compact, broad and sturdy of limb, seemed extremely full of sound organs functioning vigorously all the time in order to keep up the brilliance of his colouring, the light curl of his coal-black hair and the lustre of his eyes, which asserted themselves roundly in an open, manly face. Between two such organisms one would not have expected to find the slightest temperamental accord. But I have observed that profane men living in ships like the holy men gathered together in monasteries develop traits of profound resemblance. This must be because the service of the sea and the service of a temple are both detached from the vanities and errors of a world which follows no severe rule. The men of the sea understand each other very well in their view of earthly things, for simplicity is a good counsellor and isolation not a bad educator. A turn of mind composed of innocence and scepticism is common to them all, with the addition of an unexpected insight into motives, as of disinterested lookers-on at a game. Mr. Powell took me aside to say,

“I like the things he says.”

“You understand each other pretty well,” I observed.

“I know his sort,” said Powell, going to the window to look at his cutter still riding to the flood. “He’s the sort that’s always chasing some notion or other round and round his head just for the fun of the thing.”

“Keeps them in good condition,” I said.

“Lively enough I dare say,” he admitted.

“Would you like better a man who let his notions lie curled up?”

“That I wouldn’t,” answered our new acquaintance. Clearly he was not difficult to get on with. “I like him, very well,” he continued, “though it isn’t easy to make him out. He seems to be up to a thing or two. What’s he doing?”

I informed him that our friend Marlow had retired from the sea in a sort of half-hearted fashion some years ago.

Mr. Powell’s comment was: “Fancied had enough of it?”

“Fancied’s the very word to use in this connection,” I observed, remembering the subtly provisional character of Marlow’s long sojourn amongst us. From year to year he dwelt on land as a bird rests on the branch of a tree, so tense with the power of brusque flight into its true element that it is incomprehensible why it should sit still minute after minute. The sea is the sailor’s true element, and Marlow, lingering on shore, was to me an object of incredulous commiseration like a bird, which, secretly, should have lost its faith in the high virtue of flying.

Chapter 2 — The Fynes and the Girl-friend

We were on our feet in the room by then, and Marlow, brown and deliberate, approached the window where Mr. Powell and I had retired. “What was the name of your chance again?” he asked. Mr. Powell stared for a moment.

“Oh! The Ferndale. A Liverpool ship. Composite built.”

“Ferndale,” repeated Marlow thoughtfully. “Ferndale.”

“Know her?”

“Our friend,” I said, “knows something of every ship. He seems to have gone about the seas prying into things considerably.”

Marlow smiled.

“I’ve seen her, at least once.”

“The finest sea-boat ever launched,” declared Mr. Powell sturdily. “Without exception.”

“She looked a stout, comfortable ship,” assented Marlow. “Uncommonly comfortable. Not very fast tho’.”

“She was fast enough for any reasonable man — when I was in her,” growled Mr. Powell with his back to us.

“Any ship is that — for a reasonable man,” generalized Marlow in a conciliatory tone. “A sailor isn’t a globe-trotter.”

“No,” muttered Mr. Powell.

“Time’s nothing to him,” advanced Marlow.

“I don’t suppose it’s much,” said Mr. Powell. “All the same a quick passage is a feather in a man’s cap.”

“True. But that ornament is for the use of the master only. And by the by what was his name?”

“The master of the Ferndale? Anthony. Captain Anthony.”

“Just so. Quite right,” approved Marlow thoughtfully. Our new acquaintance looked over his shoulder.

“What do you mean? Why is it more right than if it had been Brown?”

“He has known him probably,” I explained. “Marlow here appears to know something of every soul that ever went afloat in a sailor’s body.”

Mr. Powell seemed wonderfully amenable to verbal suggestions for looking again out of the window, he muttered:

“He was a good soul.”

This clearly referred to Captain Anthony of the Ferndale. Marlow addressed his protest to me.

“I did not know him. I really didn’t. He was a good soul. That’s nothing very much out of the way — is it? And I didn’t even know that much of him. All I knew of him was an accident called Fyne.

At this Mr. Powell who evidently could be rebellious too turned his back squarely on the window.

“What on earth do you mean?” he asked. “An — accident — called Fyne,” he repeated separating the words with emphasis.

Marlow was not disconcerted.

“I don’t mean accident in the sense of a mishap. Not in the least. Fyne was a good little man in the Civil Service. By accident I mean that which happens blindly and without intelligent design. That’s generally the way a brother-in-law happens into a man’s life.”

Marlow’s tone being apologetic and our new acquaintance having again turned to the window I took it upon myself to say:

“You are justified. There is very little intelligent design in the majority of marriages; but they are none the worse for that. Intelligence leads people astray as far as passion sometimes. I know you are not a cynic.”

Marlow smiled his retrospective smile which was kind as though he bore no grudge against people he used to know.

“Little Fyne’s marriage was quite successful. There was no design at all in it. Fyne, you must know, was an enthusiastic pedestrian. He spent his holidays tramping all over our native land. His tastes were simple. He put infinite conviction and perseverance into his holidays. At the proper season you would meet in the fields, Fyne, a serious-faced, broad-chested, little man, with a shabby knap-sack on his back, making for some church steeple. He had a horror of roads. He wrote once a little book called the ‘Tramp’s Itinerary,’ and was recognised as an authority on the footpaths of England. So one year, in his favourite over-the-fields, back-way fashion he entered a pretty Surrey village where he met Miss Anthony. Pure accident, you see. They came to an understanding, across some stile, most likely. Little Fyne held very solemn views as to the destiny of women on this earth, the nature of our sublunary love, the obligations of this transient life and so on. He probably disclosed them to his future wife. Miss Anthony’s views of life were very decided too but in a different way. I don’t know the story of their wooing. I imagine it was carried on clandestinely and, I am certain, with portentous gravity, at the back of copses, behind hedges . . .

“Why was it carried on clandestinely?” I inquired.

“Because of the lady’s father. He was a savage sentimentalist who had his own decided views of his paternal prerogatives. He was a terror; but the only evidence of imaginative faculty about Fyne was his pride in his wife’s parentage. It stimulated his ingenuity too. Difficult — is it not? — to introduce one’s wife’s maiden name into general conversation. But my simple Fyne made use of Captain Anthony for that purpose, or else I would never even have heard of the man. “My wife’s sailor-brother” was the phrase. He trotted out the sailor-brother in a pretty wide range of subjects: Indian and colonial affairs, matters of trade, talk of travels, of seaside holidays and so on. Once I remember “My wife’s sailor-brother Captain Anthony” being produced in connection with nothing less recondite than a sunset. And little Fyne never failed to add “The son of Carleon Anthony, the poet — you know.” He used to lower his voice for that statement, and people were impressed or pretended to be.”

The late Carleon Anthony, the poet, sang in his time of the domestic and social amenities of our age with a most felicitous versification, his object being, in his own words, “to glorify the result of six thousand years’ evolution towards the refinement of thought, manners and feelings.” Why he fixed the term at six thousand years I don’t know. His poems read like sentimental novels told in verse of a really superior quality. You felt as if you were being taken out for a delightful country drive by a charming lady in a pony carriage. But in his domestic life that same Carleon Anthony showed traces of the primitive cave-dweller’s temperament. He was a massive, implacable man with a handsome face, arbitrary and exacting with his dependants, but marvellously suave in his manner to admiring strangers. These contrasted displays must have been particularly exasperating to his long-suffering family. After his second wife’s death his boy, whom he persisted by a mere whim in educating at home, ran away in conventional style and, as if disgusted with the amenities of civilization, threw himself, figuratively speaking, into the sea. The daughter (the elder of the two children) either from compassion or because women are naturally more enduring, remained in bondage to the poet for several years, till she too seized a chance of escape by throwing herself into the arms, the muscular arms, of the pedestrian Fyne. This was either great luck or great sagacity. A civil servant is, I should imagine, the last human being in the world to preserve those traits of the cave-dweller from which she was fleeing. Her father would never consent to see her after the marriage. Such unforgiving selfishness is difficult to understand unless as a perverse sort of refinement. There were also doubts as to Carleon Anthony’s complete sanity for some considerable time before he died.

Most of the above I elicited from Marlow, for all I knew of Carleon Anthony was his unexciting but fascinating verse. Marlow assured me that the Fyne marriage was perfectly successful and even happy, in an earnest, unplayful fashion, being blessed besides by three healthy, active, self-reliant children, all girls. They were all pedestrians too. Even the youngest would wander away for miles if not restrained. Mrs. Fyne had a ruddy out-of-doors complexion and wore blouses with a starched front like a man’s shirt, a stand-up collar and a long necktie. Marlow had made their acquaintance one summer in the country, where they were accustomed to take a cottage for the holidays . . .

At this point we were interrupted by Mr. Powell who declared that he must leave us. The tide was on the turn, he announced coming away from the window abruptly. He wanted to be on board his cutter before she swung and of course he would sleep on board. Never slept away from the cutter while on a cruise. He was gone in a moment, unceremoniously, but giving us no offence and leaving behind an impression as though we had known him for a long time. The ingenuous way he had told us of his start in life had something to do with putting him on that footing with us. I gave no thought to seeing him again.

Marlow expressed a confident hope of coming across him before long.

“He cruises about the mouth of the river all the summer. He will be easy to find any week-end,” he remarked ringing the bell so that we might settle up with the waiter.

* * * * *

Later on I asked Marlow why he wished to cultivate this chance acquaintance. He confessed apologetically that it was the commonest sort of curiosity. I flatter myself that I understand all sorts of curiosity. Curiosity about daily facts, about daily things, about daily men. It is the most respectable faculty of the human mind — in fact I cannot conceive the uses of an incurious mind. It would be like a chamber perpetually locked up. But in this particular case Mr. Powell seemed to have given us already a complete insight into his personality such as it was; a personality capable of perception and with a feeling for the vagaries of fate, but essentially simple in itself.

Marlow agreed with me so far. He explained however that his curiosity was not excited by Mr. Powell exclusively. It originated a good way further back in the fact of his accidental acquaintance with the Fynes, in the country. This chance meeting with a man who had sailed with Captain Anthony had revived it. It had revived it to some purpose, to such purpose that to me too was given the knowledge of its origin and of its nature. It was given to me in several stages, at intervals which are not indicated here. On this first occasion I remarked to Marlow with some surprise:

“But, if I remember rightly you said you didn’t know Captain Anthony.”

“No. I never saw the man. It’s years ago now, but I seem to hear solemn little Fyne’s deep voice announcing the approaching visit of his wife’s brother “the son of the poet, you know.” He had just arrived in London from a long voyage, and, directly his occupations permitted, was coming down to stay with his relatives for a few weeks. No doubt we two should find many things to talk about by ourselves in reference to our common calling, added little Fyne portentously in his grave undertones, as if the Mercantile Marine were a secret society.

You must understand that I cultivated the Fynes only in the country, in their holiday time. This was the third year. Of their existence in town I knew no more than may be inferred from analogy. I played chess with Fyne in the late afternoon, and sometimes came over to the cottage early enough to have tea with the whole family at a big round table. They sat about it, an unsmiling, sunburnt company of very few words indeed. Even the children were silent and as if contemptuous of each other and of their elders. Fyne muttered sometimes deep down in his chest some insignificant remark. Mrs. Fyne smiled mechanically (she had splendid teeth) while distributing tea and bread and butter. A something which was not coldness, nor yet indifference, but a sort of peculiar self-possession gave her the appearance of a very trustworthy, very capable and excellent governess; as if Fyne were a widower and the children not her own but only entrusted to her calm, efficient, unemotional care. One expected her to address Fyne as Mr. When she called him John it surprised one like a shocking familiarity. The atmosphere of that holiday was — if I may put it so — brightly dull. Healthy faces, fair complexions, clear eyes, and never a frank smile in the whole lot, unless perhaps from a girl-friend.

The girl-friend problem exercised me greatly. How and where the Fynes got all these pretty creatures to come and stay with them I can’t imagine. I had at first the wild suspicion that they were obtained to amuse Fyne. But I soon discovered that he could hardly tell one from the other, though obviously their presence met with his solemn approval. These girls in fact came for Mrs. Fyne. They treated her with admiring deference. She answered to some need of theirs. They sat at her feet. They were like disciples. It was very curious. Of Fyne they took but scanty notice. As to myself I was made to feel that I did not exist.

After tea we would sit down to chess and then Fyne’s everlasting gravity became faintly tinged by an attenuated gleam of something inward which resembled sly satisfaction. Of the divine frivolity of laughter he was only capable over a chess-board. Certain positions of the game struck him as humorous, which nothing else on earth could do . . .

“He used to beat you,” I asserted with confidence.

“Yes. He used to beat me,” Marlow owned up hastily.

So he and Fyne played two games after tea. The children romped together outside, gravely, unplayfully, as one would expect from Fyne’s children, and Mrs. Fyne would be gone to the bottom of the garden with the girl-friend of the week. She always walked off directly after tea with her arm round the girl-friend’s waist. Marlow said that there was only one girl-friend with whom he had conversed at all. It had happened quite unexpectedly, long after he had given up all hope of getting into touch with these reserved girl-friends.

One day he saw a woman walking about on the edge of a high quarry, which rose a sheer hundred feet, at least, from the road winding up the hill out of which it had been excavated. He shouted warningly to her from below where he happened to be passing. She was really in considerable danger. At the sound of his voice she started back and retreated out of his sight amongst some young Scotch firs growing near the very brink of the precipice.

“I sat down on a bank of grass,” Marlow went on. “She had given me a turn. The hem of her skirt seemed to float over that awful sheer drop, she was so close to the edge. An absurd thing to do. A perfectly mad trick — for no conceivable object! I was reflecting on the foolhardiness of the average girl and remembering some other instances of the kind, when she came into view walking down the steep curve of the road. She had Mrs. Fyne’s walking-stick and was escorted by the Fyne dog. Her dead white face struck me with astonishment, so that I forgot to raise my hat. I just sat and stared. The dog, a vivacious and amiable animal which for some inscrutable reason had bestowed his friendship on my unworthy self, rushed up the bank demonstratively and insinuated himself under my arm.

The girl-friend (it was one of them) went past some way as though she had not seen me, then stopped and called the dog to her several times; but he only nestled closer to my side, and when I tried to push him away developed that remarkable power of internal resistance by which a dog makes himself practically immovable by anything short of a kick. She looked over her shoulder and her arched eyebrows frowned above her blanched face. It was almost a scowl. Then the expression changed. She looked unhappy. “Come here!” she cried once more in an angry and distressed tone. I took off my hat at last, but the dog hanging out his tongue with that cheerfully imbecile expression some dogs know so well how to put on when it suits their purpose, pretended to be deaf.

She cried from the distance desperately.

“Perhaps you will take him to the cottage then. I can’t wait.”

“I won’t be responsible for that dog,” I protested getting down the bank and advancing towards her. She looked very hurt, apparently by the desertion of the dog. “But if you let me walk with you he will follow us all right,” I suggested.

She moved on without answering me. The dog launched himself suddenly full speed down the road receding from us in a small cloud of dust. It vanished in the distance, and presently we came up with him lying on the grass. He panted in the shade of the hedge with shining eyes but pretended not to see us. We had not exchanged a word so far. The girl by my side gave him a scornful glance in passing.

“He offered to come with me,” she remarked bitterly.

“And then abandoned you!” I sympathized. “It looks very unchivalrous. But that’s merely his want of tact. I believe he meant to protest against your reckless proceedings. What made you come so near the edge of that quarry? The earth might have given way. Haven’t you noticed a smashed fir tree at the bottom? Tumbled over only the other morning after a night’s rain.”

“I don’t see why I shouldn’t be as reckless as I please.”

I was nettled by her brusque manner of asserting her folly, and I told her that neither did I as far as that went, in a tone which almost suggested that she was welcome to break her neck for all I cared. This was considerably more than I meant, but I don’t like rude girls. I had been introduced to her only the day before — at the round tea-table — and she had barely acknowledged the introduction. I had not caught her name but I had noticed her fine, arched eyebrows which, so the physiognomists say, are a sign of courage.

I examined her appearance quietly. Her hair was nearly black, her eyes blue, deeply shaded by long dark eyelashes. She had a little colour now. She looked straight before her; the corner of her lip on my side drooped a little; her chin was fine, somewhat pointed. I went on to say that some regard for others should stand in the way of one’s playing with danger. I urged playfully the distress of the poor Fynes in case of accident, if nothing else. I told her that she did not know the bucolic mind. Had she given occasion for a coroner’s inquest the verdict would have been suicide, with the implication of unhappy love. They would never be able to understand that she had taken the trouble to climb over two post-and-rail fences only for the fun of being reckless. Indeed even as I talked chaffingly I was greatly struck myself by the fact.

She retorted that once one was dead what horrid people thought of one did not matter. It was said with infinite contempt; but something like a suppressed quaver in the voice made me look at her again. I perceived then that her thick eyelashes were wet. This surprising discovery silenced me as you may guess. She looked unhappy. And — I don’t know how to say it — well — it suited her. The clouded brow, the pained mouth, the vague fixed glance! A victim. And this characteristic aspect made her attractive; an individual touch — you know.

The dog had run on ahead and now gazed at us by the side of the Fyne’s garden-gate in a tense attitude and wagging his stumpy tail very, very slowly, with an air of concentrated attention. The girl-friend of the Fynes bolted violently through the aforesaid gate and into the cottage leaving me on the road — astounded.

A couple of hours afterwards I returned to the cottage for chess as usual. I saw neither the girl nor Mrs. Fyne then. We had our two games and on parting I warned Fyne that I was called to town on business and might be away for some time. He regretted it very much. His brother-in-law was expected next day but he didn’t know whether he was a chess-player. Captain Anthony (“the son of the poet — you know”) was of a retiring disposition, shy with strangers, unused to society and very much devoted to his calling, Fyne explained. All the time they had been married he could be induced only once before to come and stay with them for a few days. He had had a rather unhappy boyhood; and it made him a silent man. But no doubt, concluded Fyne, as if dealing portentously with a mystery, we two sailors should find much to say to one another.

This point was never settled. I was detained in town from week to week till it seemed hardly worth while to go back. But as I had kept on my rooms in the farmhouse I concluded to go down again for a few days.

It was late, deep dusk, when I got out at our little country station. My eyes fell on the unmistakable broad back and the muscular legs in cycling stockings of little Fyne. He passed along the carriages rapidly towards the rear of the train, which presently pulled out and left him solitary at the end of the rustic platform. When he came back to where I waited I perceived that he was much perturbed, so perturbed as to forget the convention of the usual greetings. He only exclaimed Oh! on recognizing me, and stopped irresolute. When I asked him if he had been expecting somebody by that train he didn’t seem to know. He stammered disconnectedly. I looked hard at him. To all appearances he was perfectly sober; moreover to suspect Fyne of a lapse from the proprieties high or low, great or small, was absurd. He was also a too serious and deliberate person to go mad suddenly. But as he seemed to have forgotten that he had a tongue in his head I concluded I would leave him to his mystery. To my surprise he followed me out of the station and kept by my side, though I did not encourage him. I did not however repulse his attempts at conversation. He was no longer expecting me, he said. He had given me up. The weather had been uniformly fine — and so on. I gathered also that the son of the poet had curtailed his stay somewhat and gone back to his ship the day before.

That information touched me but little. Believing in heredity in moderation I knew well how sea-life fashions a man outwardly and stamps his soul with the mark of a certain prosaic fitness — because a sailor is not an adventurer. I expressed no regret at missing Captain Anthony and we proceeded in silence till, on approaching the holiday cottage, Fyne suddenly and unexpectedly broke it by the hurried declaration that he would go on with me a little farther.

“Go with you to your door,” he mumbled and started forward to the little gate where the shadowy figure of Mrs. Fyne hovered, clearly on the lookout for him. She was alone. The children must have been already in bed and I saw no attending girl-friend shadow near her vague but unmistakable form, half-lost in the obscurity of the little garden.

I heard Fyne exclaim “Nothing” and then Mrs. Fyne’s well-trained, responsible voice uttered the words, “It’s what I have said,” with incisive equanimity. By that time I had passed on, raising my hat. Almost at once Fyne caught me up and slowed down to my strolling gait which must have been infinitely irksome to his high pedestrian faculties. I am sure that all his muscular person must have suffered from awful physical boredom; but he did not attempt to charm it away by conversation. He preserved a portentous and dreary silence. And I was bored too. Suddenly I perceived the menace of even worse boredom. Yes! He was so silent because he had something to tell me.

I became extremely frightened. But man, reckless animal, is so made that in him curiosity, the paltriest curiosity, will overcome all terrors, every disgust, and even despair itself. To my laconic invitation to come in for a drink he answered by a deep, gravely accented: “Thanks, I will” as though it were a response in church. His face as seen in the lamplight gave me no clue to the character of the impending communication; as indeed from the nature of things it couldn’t do, its normal expression being already that of the utmost possible seriousness. It was perfect and immovable; and for a certainty if he had something excruciatingly funny to tell me it would be all the same.

He gazed at me earnestly and delivered himself of some weighty remarks on Mrs. Fyne’s desire to befriend, counsel, and guide young girls of all sorts on the path of life. It was a voluntary mission. He approved his wife’s action and also her views and principles in general.

All this with a solemn countenance and in deep measured tones. Yet somehow I got an irresistible conviction that he was exasperated by something in particular. In the unworthy hope of being amused by the misfortunes of a fellow-creature I asked him point-blank what was wrong now.

What was wrong was that a girl-friend was missing. She had been missing precisely since six o’clock that morning. The woman who did the work of the cottage saw her going out at that hour, for a walk. The pedestrian Fyne’s ideas of a walk were extensive, but the girl did not turn up for lunch, nor yet for tea, nor yet for dinner. She had not turned up by footpath, road or rail. He had been reluctant to make inquiries. It would have set all the village talking. The Fynes had expected her to reappear every moment, till the shades of the night and the silence of slumber had stolen gradually over the wide and peaceful rural landscape commanded by the cottage.

After telling me that much Fyne sat helpless in unconclusive agony. Going to bed was out of the question — neither could any steps be taken just then. What to do with himself he did not know!

I asked him if this was the same young lady I saw a day or two before I went to town? He really could not remember. Was she a girl with dark hair and blue eyes? I asked further. He really couldn’t tell what colour her eyes were. He was very unobservant except as to the peculiarities of footpaths, on which he was an authority.

I thought with amazement and some admiration that Mrs. Fyne’s young disciples were to her husband’s gravity no more than evanescent shadows. However, with but little hesitation Fyne ventured to affirm that — yes, her hair was of some dark shade.

“We had a good deal to do with that girl first and last,” he explained solemnly; then getting up as if moved by a spring he snatched his cap off the table. “She may be back in the cottage,” he cried in his bass voice. I followed him out on the road.

It was one of those dewy, clear, starry nights, oppressing our spirit, crushing our pride, by the brilliant evidence of the awful loneliness, of the hopeless obscure insignificance of our globe lost in the splendid revelation of a glittering, soulless universe. I hate such skies. Daylight is friendly to man toiling under a sun which warms his heart; and cloudy soft nights are more kindly to our littleness. I nearly ran back again to my lighted parlour; Fyne fussing in a knicker-bocker suit before the hosts of heaven, on a shadowy earth, about a transient, phantom-like girl, seemed too ridiculous to associate with. On the other hand there was something fascinating in the very absurdity. He cut along in his best pedestrian style and I found myself let in for a spell of severe exercise at eleven o’clock at night.

In the distance over the fields and trees smudging and blotching the vast obscurity, one lighted window of the cottage with the blind up was like a bright beacon kept alight to guide the lost wanderer. Inside, at the table bearing the lamp, we saw Mrs. Fyne sitting with folded arms and not a hair of her head out of place. She looked exactly like a governess who had put the children to bed; and her manner to me was just the neutral manner of a governess. To her husband, too, for that matter.

Fyne told her that I was fully informed. Not a muscle of her ruddy smooth handsome face moved. She had schooled herself into that sort of thing. Having seen two successive wives of the delicate poet chivied and worried into their graves, she had adopted that cool, detached manner to meet her gifted father’s outbreaks of selfish temper. It had now become a second nature. I suppose she was always like that; even in the very hour of elopement with Fyne. That transaction when one remembered it in her presence acquired a quaintly marvellous aspect to one’s imagination. But somehow her self-possession matched very well little Fyne’s invariable solemnity.

I was rather sorry for him. Wasn’t he worried! The agony of solemnity. At the same time I was amused. I didn’t take a gloomy view of that “vanishing girl” trick. Somehow I couldn’t. But I said nothing. None of us said anything. We sat about that big round table as if assembled for a conference and looked at each other in a sort of fatuous consternation. I would have ended by laughing outright if I had not been saved from that impropriety by poor Fyne becoming preposterous.

He began with grave anguish to talk of going to the police in the morning, of printing descriptive bills, of setting people to drag the ponds for miles around. It was extremely gruesome. I murmured something about communicating with the young lady’s relatives. It seemed to me a very natural suggestion; but Fyne and his wife exchanged such a significant glance that I felt as though I had made a tactless remark.

But I really wanted to help poor Fyne; and as I could see that, manlike, he suffered from the present inability to act, the passive waiting, I said: “Nothing of this can be done till to-morrow. But as you have given me an insight into the nature of your thoughts I can tell you what may be done at once. We may go and look at the bottom of the old quarry which is on the level of the road, about a mile from here.”

The couple made big eyes at this, and then I told them of my meeting with the girl. You may be surprised but I assure you I had not perceived this aspect of it till that very moment. It was like a startling revelation; the past throwing a sinister light on the future. Fyne opened his mouth gravely and as gravely shut it. Nothing more. Mrs. Fyne said, “You had better go,” with an air as if her self-possession had been pricked with a pin in some secret place.

And I — you know how stupid I can be at times — I perceived with dismay for the first time that by pandering to Fyne’s morbid fancies I had let myself in for some more severe exercise. And wasn’t I sorry I spoke! You know how I hate walking — at least on solid, rural earth; for I can walk a ship’s deck a whole foggy night through, if necessary, and think little of it. There is some satisfaction too in playing the vagabond in the streets of a big town till the sky pales above the ridges of the roofs. I have done that repeatedly for pleasure — of a sort. But to tramp the slumbering country-side in the dark is for me a wearisome nightmare of exertion.

With perfect detachment Mrs. Fyne watched me go out after her husband. That woman was flint.

* * * * *

The fresh night had a smell of soil, of turned-up sods like a grave — an association particularly odious to a sailor by its idea of confinement and narrowness; yes, even when he has given up the hope of being buried at sea; about the last hope a sailor gives up consciously after he has been, as it does happen, decoyed by some chance into the toils of the land. A strong grave-like sniff. The ditch by the side of the road must have been freshly dug in front of the cottage.

Once clear of the garden Fyne gathered way like a racing cutter. What was a mile to him — or twenty miles? You think he might have gone shrinkingly on such an errand. But not a bit of it. The force of pedestrian genius I suppose. I raced by his side in a mood of profound self-derision, and infinitely vexed with that minx. Because dead or alive I thought of her as a minx . . .”

I smiled incredulously at Marlow’s ferocity; but Marlow pausing with a whimsically retrospective air, never flinched.

“Yes, yes. Even dead. And now you are shocked. You see, you are such a chivalrous masculine beggar. But there is enough of the woman in my nature to free my judgment of women from glamorous reticency. And then, why should I upset myself? A woman is not necessarily either a doll or an angel to me. She is a human being, very much like myself. And I have come across too many dead souls lying so to speak at the foot of high unscaleable places for a merely possible dead body at the bottom of a quarry to strike my sincerity dumb.

The cliff-like face of the quarry looked forbiddingly impressive. I will admit that Fyne and I hung back for a moment before we made a plunge off the road into the bushes growing in a broad space at the foot of the towering limestone wall. These bushes were heavy with dew. There were also concealed mudholes in there. We crept and tumbled and felt about with our hands along the ground. We got wet, scratched, and plastered with mire all over our nether garments. Fyne fell suddenly into a strange cavity — probably a disused lime-kiln. His voice uplifted in grave distress sounded more than usually rich, solemn and profound. This was the comic relief of an absurdly dramatic situation. While hauling him out I permitted myself to laugh aloud at last. Fyne, of course, didn’t.

I need not tell you that we found nothing after a most conscientious search. Fyne even pushed his way into a decaying shed half-buried in dew-soaked vegetation. He struck matches, several of them too, as if to make absolutely sure that the vanished girl-friend of his wife was not hiding there. The short flares illuminated his grave, immovable countenance while I let myself go completely and laughed in peals.

I asked him if he really and truly supposed that any sane girl would go and hide in that shed; and if so why?

Disdainful of my mirth he merely muttered his basso-profundo thankfulness that we had not found her anywhere about there. Having grown extremely sensitive (an effect of irritation) to the tonalities, I may say, of this affair, I felt that it was only an imperfect, reserved, thankfulness, with one eye still on the possibilities of the several ponds in the neighbourhood. And I remember I snorted, I positively snorted, at that poor Fyne.

What really jarred upon me was the rate of his walking. Differences in politics, in ethics and even in aesthetics need not arouse angry antagonism. One’s opinion may change; one’s tastes may alter — in fact they do. One’s very conception of virtue is at the mercy of some felicitous temptation which may be sprung on one any day. All these things are perpetually on the swing. But a temperamental difference, temperament being immutable, is the parent of hate. That’s why religious quarrels are the fiercest of all. My temperament, in matters pertaining to solid land, is the temperament of leisurely movement, of deliberate gait. And there was that little Fyne pounding along the road in a most offensive manner; a man wedded to thick-soled, laced boots; whereas my temperament demands thin shoes of the lightest kind. Of course there could never have been question of friendship between us; but under the provocation of having to keep up with his pace I began to dislike him actively. I begged sarcastically to know whether he could tell me if we were engaged in a farce or in a tragedy. I wanted to regulate my feelings which, I told him, were in an unbecoming state of confusion.

But Fyne was as impervious to sarcasm as a turtle. He tramped on, and all he did was to ejaculate twice out of his deep chest, vaguely, doubtfully.

“I am afraid . . . I am afraid! . . . “

This was tragic. The thump of his boots was the only sound in a shadowy world. I kept by his side with a comparatively ghostly, silent tread. By a strange illusion the road appeared to run up against a lot of low stars at no very great distance, but as we advanced new stretches of whitey-brown ribbon seemed to come up from under the black ground. I observed, as we went by, the lamp in my parlour in the farmhouse still burning. But I did not leave Fyne to run in and put it out. The impetus of his pedestrian excellence carried me past in his wake before I could make up my mind.

“Tell me, Fyne,” I cried, “you don’t think the girl was mad — do you?”

He answered nothing. Soon the lighted beacon-like window of the cottage came into view. Then Fyne uttered a solemn: “Certainly not,” with profound assurance. But immediately after he added a “Very highly strung young person indeed,” which unsettled me again. Was it a tragedy?

“Nobody ever got up at six o’clock in the morning to commit suicide,” I declared crustily. “It’s unheard of! This is a farce.”

As a matter of fact it was neither farce nor tragedy.

Coming up to the cottage we had a view of Mrs. Fyne inside still sitting in the strong light at the round table with folded arms. It looked as though she had not moved her very head by as much as an inch since we went away. She was amazing in a sort of unsubtle way; crudely amazing — I thought. Why crudely? I don’t know. Perhaps because I saw her then in a crude light. I mean this materially — in the light of an unshaded lamp. Our mental conclusions depend so much on momentary physical sensations — don’t they? If the lamp had been shaded I should perhaps have gone home after expressing politely my concern at the Fynes’ unpleasant predicament.

Losing a girl-friend in that manner is unpleasant. It is also mysterious. So mysterious that a certain mystery attaches to the people to whom such a thing does happen. Moreover I had never really understood the Fynes; he with his solemnity which extended to the very eating of bread and butter; she with that air of detachment and resolution in breasting the common-place current of their unexciting life, in which the cutting of bread and butter appeared to me, by a long way, the most dangerous episode. Sometimes I amused myself by supposing that to their minds this world of ours must be wearing a perfectly overwhelming aspect, and that their heads contained respectively awfully serious and extremely desperate thoughts — and trying to imagine what an exciting time they must be having of it in the inscrutable depths of their being. This last was difficult to a volatile person (I am sure that to the Fynes I was a volatile person) and the amusement in itself was not very great; but still — in the country — away from all mental stimulants! . . . My efforts had invested them with a sort of amusing profundity.

But when Fyne and I got back into the room, then in the searching, domestic, glare of the lamp, inimical to the play of fancy, I saw these two stripped of every vesture it had amused me to put on them for fun. Queer enough they were. Is there a human being that isn’t that — more or less secretly? But whatever their secret, it was manifest to me that it was neither subtle nor profound. They were a good, stupid, earnest couple and very much bothered. They were that — with the usual unshaded crudity of average people. There was nothing in them that the lamplight might not touch without the slightest risk of indiscretion.

Directly we had entered the room Fyne announced the result by saying “Nothing” in the same tone as at the gate on his return from the railway station. And as then Mrs. Fyne uttered an incisive “It’s what I’ve said,” which might have been the veriest echo of her words in the garden. We three looked at each other as if on the brink of a disclosure. I don’t know whether she was vexed at my presence. It could hardly be called intrusion — could it? Little Fyne began it. It had to go on. We stood before her, plastered with the same mud (Fyne was a sight!), scratched by the same brambles, conscious of the same experience. Yes. Before her. And she looked at us with folded arms, with an extraordinary fulness of assumed responsibility. I addressed her.

“You don’t believe in an accident, Mrs. Fyne, do you?”

She shook her head in curt negation while, caked in mud and inexpressibly serious-faced, Fyne seemed to be backing her up with all the weight of his solemn presence. Nothing more absurd could be conceived. It was delicious. And I went on in deferential accents: “Am I to understand then that you entertain the theory of suicide?”

I don’t know that I am liable to fits of delirium but by a sudden and alarming aberration while waiting for her answer I became mentally aware of three trained dogs dancing on their hind legs. I don’t know why. Perhaps because of the pervading solemnity. There’s nothing more solemn on earth than a dance of trained dogs.

“She has chosen to disappear. That’s all.”

In these words Mrs. Fyne answered me. The aggressive tone was too much for my endurance. In an instant I found myself out of the dance and down on all-fours so to speak, with liberty to bark and bite.

“The devil she has,” I cried. “Has chosen to . . . Like this, all at once, anyhow, regardless . . . I’ve had the privilege of meeting that reckless and brusque young lady and I must say that with her air of an angry victim . . . “

“Precisely,” Mrs. Fyne said very unexpectedly like a steel trap going off. I stared at her. How provoking she was! So I went on to finish my tirade. “She struck me at first sight as the most inconsiderate wrong-headed girl that I ever . . . “

“Why should a girl be more considerate than anyone else? More than any man, for instance?” inquired Mrs. Fyne with a still greater assertion of responsibility in her bearing.

Of course I exclaimed at this, not very loudly it is true, but forcibly. Were then the feelings of friends, relations and even of strangers to be disregarded? I asked Mrs. Fyne if she did not think it was a sort of duty to show elementary consideration not only for the natural feelings but even for the prejudices of one’s fellow-creatures.

Her answer knocked me over.

“Not for a woman.”

Just like that. I confess that I went down flat. And while in that collapsed state I learned the true nature of Mrs. Fyne’s feminist doctrine. It was not political, it was not social. It was a knock-me-down doctrine — a practical individualistic doctrine. You would not thank me for expounding it to you at large. Indeed I think that she herself did not enlighten me fully. There must have been things not fit for a man to hear. But shortly, and as far as my bewilderment allowed me to grasp its naïve atrociousness, it was something like this: that no consideration, no delicacy, no tenderness, no scruples should stand in the way of a woman (who by the mere fact of her sex was the predestined victim of conditions created by men’s selfish passions, their vices and their abominable tyranny) from taking the shortest cut towards securing for herself the easiest possible existence. She had even the right to go out of existence without considering anyone’s feelings or convenience since some women’s existences were made impossible by the shortsighted baseness of men.

I looked at her, sitting before the lamp at one o’clock in the morning, with her mature, smooth-cheeked face of masculine shape robbed of its freshness by fatigue; at her eyes dimmed by this senseless vigil. I looked also at Fyne; the mud was drying on him; he was obviously tired. The weariness of solemnity. But he preserved an unflinching, endorsing, gravity of expression. Endorsing it all as became a good, convinced husband.

“Oh! I see,” I said. “No consideration . . . Well I hope you like it.”

They amused me beyond the wildest imaginings of which I was capable. After the first shock, you understand, I recovered very quickly. The order of the world was safe enough. He was a civil servant and she his good and faithful wife. But when it comes to dealing with human beings anything, anything may be expected. So even my astonishment did not last very long. How far she developed and illustrated that conscienceless and austere doctrine to the girl-friends, who were mere transient shadows to her husband, I could not tell. Any length I supposed. And he looked on, acquiesced, approved, just for that very reason — because these pretty girls were but shadows to him. O! Most virtuous Fyne! He cast his eyes down. He didn’t like it. But I eyed him with hidden animosity for he had got me to run after him under somewhat false pretences.

Mrs. Fyne had only smiled at me very expressively, very self-confidently. “Oh I quite understand that you accept the fullest responsibility,” I said. “I am the only ridiculous person in this — this — I don’t know how to call it — performance. However, I’ve nothing more to do here, so I’ll say good-night — or good morning, for it must be past one.”

But before departing, in common decency, I offered to take any wires they might write. My lodgings were nearer the post-office than the cottage and I would send them off the first thing in the morning. I supposed they would wish to communicate, if only as to the disposal of the luggage, with the young lady’s relatives . . .

Fyne, he looked rather downcast by then, thanked me and declined.

“There is really no one,” he said, very grave.

“No one,” I exclaimed.

“Practically,” said curt Mrs. Fyne.

And my curiosity was aroused again.

“Ah! I see. An orphan.”

Mrs. Fyne looked away weary and sombre, and Fyne said “Yes” impulsively, and then qualified the affirmative by the quaint statement: “To a certain extent.”

I became conscious of a languid, exhausted embarrassment, bowed to Mrs. Fyne, and went out of the cottage to be confronted outside its door by the bespangled, cruel revelation of the Immensity of the Universe. The night was not sufficiently advanced for the stars to have paled; and the earth seemed to me more profoundly asleep — perhaps because I was alone now. Not having Fyne with me to set the pace I let myself drift, rather than walk, in the direction of the farmhouse. To drift is the only reposeful sort of motion (ask any ship if it isn’t) and therefore consistent with thoughtfulness. And I pondered: How is one an orphan “to a certain extent”?

No amount of solemnity could make such a statement other than bizarre. What a strange condition to be in. Very likely one of the parents only was dead? But no; it couldn’t be, since Fyne had said just before that “there was really no one” to communicate with. No one! And then remembering Mrs. Fyne’s snappy “Practically” my thoughts fastened upon that lady as a more tangible object of speculation.

I wondered — and wondering I doubted — whether she really understood herself the theory she had propounded to me. Everything may be said — indeed ought to be said — providing we know how to say it. She probably did not. She was not intelligent enough for that. She had no knowledge of the world. She had got hold of words as a child might get hold of some poisonous pills and play with them for “dear, tiny little marbles.” No! The domestic-slave daughter of Carleon Anthony and the little Fyne of the Civil Service (that flower of civilization) were not intelligent people. They were commonplace, earnest, without smiles and without guile. But he had his solemnities and she had her reveries, her lurid, violent, crude reveries. And I thought with some sadness that all these revolts and indignations, all these protests, revulsions of feeling, pangs of suffering and of rage, expressed but the uneasiness of sensual beings trying for their share in the joys of form, colour, sensations — the only riches of our world of senses. A poet may be a simple being but he is bound to be various and full of wiles, ingenious and irritable. I reflected on the variety of ways the ingenuity of the late bard of civilization would be able to invent for the tormenting of his dependants. Poets not being generally foresighted in practical affairs, no vision of consequences would restrain him. Yes. The Fynes were excellent people, but Mrs. Fyne wasn’t the daughter of a domestic tyrant for nothing. There were no limits to her revolt. But they were excellent people. It was clear that they must have been extremely good to that girl whose position in the world seemed somewhat difficult, with her face of a victim, her obvious lack of resignation and the bizarre status of orphan “to a certain extent.”

Such were my thoughts, but in truth I soon ceased to trouble about all these people. I found that my lamp had gone out leaving behind an awful smell. I fled from it up the stairs and went to bed in the dark. My slumbers — I suppose the one good in pedestrian exercise, confound it, is that it helps our natural callousness — my slumbers were deep, dreamless and refreshing.

My appetite at breakfast was not affected by my ignorance of the facts, motives, events and conclusions. I think that to understand everything is not good for the intellect. A well-stocked intelligence weakens the impulse to action; an overstocked one leads gently to idiocy. But Mrs. Fyne’s individualist woman-doctrine, naïvely unscrupulous, flitted through my mind. The salad of unprincipled notions she put into these girl-friends’ heads! Good innocent creature, worthy wife, excellent mother (of the strict governess type), she was as guileless of consequences as any determinist philosopher ever was.

As to honour — you know — it’s a very fine medieval inheritance which women never got hold of. It wasn’t theirs. Since it may be laid as a general principle that women always get what they want we must suppose they didn’t want it. In addition they are devoid of decency. I mean masculine decency. Cautiousness too is foreign to them — the heavy reasonable cautiousness which is our glory. And if they had it they would make of it a thing of passion, so that its own mother — I mean the mother of cautiousness — wouldn’t recognize it. Prudence with them is a matter of thrill like the rest of sublunary contrivances. “Sensation at any cost,” is their secret device. All the virtues are not enough for them; they want also all the crimes for their own. And why? Because in such completeness there is power — the kind of thrill they love most . . . “

“Do you expect me to agree to all this?” I interrupted.

“No, it isn’t necessary,” said Marlow, feeling the check to his eloquence but with a great effort at amiability. “You need not even understand it. I continue: with such disposition what prevents women — to use the phrase an old boatswain of my acquaintance applied descriptively to his captain — what prevents them from “coming on deck and playing hell with the ship” generally, is that something in them precise and mysterious, acting both as restraint and as inspiration; their femininity in short which they think they can get rid of by trying hard, but can’t, and never will. Therefore we may conclude that, for all their enterprises, the world is and remains safe enough. Feeling, in my character of a lover of peace, soothed by that conclusion I prepared myself to enjoy a fine day.

And it was a fine day; a delicious day, with the horror of the Infinite veiled by the splendid tent of blue; a day innocently bright like a child with a washed face, fresh like an innocent young girl, suave in welcoming one’s respects like — like a Roman prelate. I love such days. They are perfection for remaining indoors. And I enjoyed it temperamentally in a chair, my feet up on the sill of the open window, a book in my hands and the murmured harmonies of wind and sun in my heart making an accompaniment to the rhythms of my author. Then looking up from the page I saw outside a pair of grey eyes thatched by ragged yellowy-white eyebrows gazing at me solemnly over the toes of my slippers. There was a grave, furrowed brow surmounting that portentous gaze, a brown tweed cap set far back on the perspiring head.

“Come inside,” I cried as heartily as my sinking heart would permit.

After a short but severe scuffle with his dog at the outer door, Fyne entered. I treated him without ceremony and only waved my hand towards a chair. Even before he sat down he gasped out:

“We’ve heard — midday post.”

Gasped out! The grave, immovable Fyne of the Civil Service, gasped! This was enough, you’ll admit, to cause me to put my feet to the ground swiftly. That fellow was always making me do things in subtle discord with my meditative temperament. No wonder that I had but a qualified liking for him. I said with just a suspicion of jeering tone:

“Of course. I told you last night on the road that it was a farce we were engaged in.”

He made the little parlour resound to its foundations with a note of anger positively sepulchral in its depth of tone. “Farce be hanged! She has bolted with my wife’s brother, Captain Anthony.” This outburst was followed by complete subsidence. He faltered miserably as he added from force of habit: “The son of the poet, you know.”

A silence fell. Fyne’s several expressions were so many examples of varied consistency. This was the discomfiture of solemnity. My interest of course was revived.

“But hold on,” I said. “They didn’t go together. Is it a suspicion or does she actually say that . . . “

“She has gone after him,” stated Fyne in comminatory tones. “By previous arrangement. She confesses that much.”

He added that it was very shocking. I asked him whether he should have preferred them going off together; and on what ground he based that preference. This was sheer fun for me in regard of the fact that Fyne’s too was a runaway match, which even got into the papers in its time, because the late indignant poet had no discretion and sought to avenge this outrage publicly in some absurd way before a bewigged judge. The dejected gesture of little Fyne’s hand disarmed my mocking mood. But I could not help expressing my surprise that Mrs. Fyne had not detected at once what was brewing. Women were supposed to have an unerring eye.

He told me that his wife had been very much engaged in a certain work. I had always wondered how she occupied her time. It was in writing. Like her husband she too published a little book. Much later on I came upon it. It had nothing to do with pedestrianism. It was a sort of hand-book for women with grievances (and all women had them), a sort of compendious theory and practice of feminine free morality. It made you laugh at its transparent simplicity. But that authorship was revealed to me much later. I didn’t of course ask Fyne what work his wife was engaged on; but I marvelled to myself at her complete ignorance of the world, of her own sex and of the other kind of sinners. Yet, where could she have got any experience? Her father had kept her strictly cloistered. Marriage with Fyne was certainly a change but only to another kind of claustration. You may tell me that the ordinary powers of observation ought to have been enough. Why, yes! But, then, as she had set up for a guide and teacher, there was nothing surprising for me in the discovery that she was blind. That’s quite in order. She was a profoundly innocent person; only it would not have been proper to tell her husband so.

Chapter 3 — Thrift — and the Child

But there was nothing improper in my observing to Fyne that, last night, Mrs. Fyne seemed to have some idea where that enterprising young lady had gone to. Fyne shook his head. No; his wife had been by no means so certain as she had pretended to be. She merely had her reasons to think, to hope, that the girl might have taken a room somewhere in London, had buried herself in town — in readiness or perhaps in horror of the approaching day —

He ceased and sat solemnly dejected, in a brown study. “What day?” I asked at last; but he did not hear me apparently. He diffused such portentous gloom into the atmosphere that I lost patience with him.

“What on earth are you so dismal about?” I cried, being genuinely surprised and puzzled. “One would think the girl was a state prisoner under your care.”

And suddenly I became still more surprised at myself, at the way I had somehow taken for granted things which did appear queer when one thought them out.

“But why this secrecy? Why did they elope — if it is an elopement? Was the girl afraid of your wife? And your brother-in-law? What on earth possesses him to make a clandestine match of it? Was he afraid of your wife too?”

Fyne made an effort to rouse himself.

“Of course my brother-in-law, Captain Anthony, the son of . . . “ He checked himself as if trying to break a bad habit. “He would be persuaded by her. We have been most friendly to the girl!”

“She struck me as a foolish and inconsiderate little person. But why should you and your wife take to heart so strongly mere folly — or even a want of consideration?”

“It’s the most unscrupulous action,” declared Fyne weightily — and sighed.

“I suppose she is poor,” I observed after a short silence. “But after all . . . “

“You don’t know who she is.” Fyne had regained his average solemnity.

I confessed that I had not caught her name when his wife had introduced us to each other. “It was something beginning with an S- wasn’t it?” And then with the utmost coolness Fyne remarked that it did not matter. The name was not her name.

“Do you mean to say that you made a young lady known to me under a false name?” I asked, with the amused feeling that the days of wonders and portents had not passed away yet. That the eminently serious Fynes should do such an exceptional thing was simply staggering. With a more hasty enunciation than usual little Fyne was sure that I would not demand an apology for this irregularity if I knew what her real name was. A sort of warmth crept into his deep tone.

“We have tried to befriend that girl in every way. She is the daughter and only child of de Barral.”

Evidently he expected to produce a sensation; he kept his eyes fixed upon me prepared for some sign of it. But I merely returned his intense, awaiting gaze. For a time we stared at each other. Conscious of being reprehensibly dense I groped in the darkness of my mind: De Barral, De Barral — and all at once noise and light burst on me as if a window of my memory had been suddenly flung open on a street in the City. De Barral! But could it be the same? Surely not!

“The financier?” I suggested half incredulous.

“Yes,” said Fyne; and in this instance his native solemnity of tone seemed to be strangely appropriate. “The convict.”

Marlow looked at me, significantly, and remarked in an explanatory tone:

“One somehow never thought of de Barral as having any children, or any other home than the offices of the “Orb”; or any other existence, associations or interests than financial. I see you remember the crash . . . “

“I was away in the Indian Seas at the time,” I said. “But of course — ”

“Of course,” Marlow struck in. “All the world . . . You may wonder at my slowness in recognizing the name. But you know that my memory is merely a mausoleum of proper names. There they lie inanimate, awaiting the magic touch — and not very prompt in arising when called, either. The name is the first thing I forget of a man. It is but just to add that frequently it is also the last, and this accounts for my possession of a good many anonymous memories. In de Barral’s case, he got put away in my mausoleum in company with so many names of his own creation that really he had to throw off a monstrous heap of grisly bones before he stood before me at the call of the wizard Fyne. The fellow had a pretty fancy in names: the “Orb” Deposit Bank, the “Sceptre” Mutual Aid Society, the “Thrift and Independence” Association. Yes, a very pretty taste in names; and nothing else besides — absolutely nothing — no other merit. Well yes. He had another name, but that’s pure luck — his own name of de Barral which he did not invent. I don’t think that a mere Jones or Brown could have fished out from the depths of the Incredible such a colossal manifestation of human folly as that man did. But it may be that I am underestimating the alacrity of human folly in rising to the bait. No doubt I am. The greed of that absurd monster is incalculable, unfathomable, inconceivable. The career of de Barral demonstrates that it will rise to a naked hook. He didn’t lure it with a fairy tale. He hadn’t enough imagination for it . . . “

“Was he a foreigner?” I asked. “It’s clearly a French name. I suppose it was his name?”

“Oh, he didn’t invent it. He was born to it, in Bethnal Green, as it came out during the proceedings. He was in the habit of alluding to his Scotch connections. But every great man has done that. The mother, I believe, was Scotch, right enough. The father de Barral whatever his origins retired from the Customs Service (tide-waiter I think), and started lending money in a very, very small way in the East End to people connected with the docks, stevedores, minor barge-owners, ship-chandlers, tally clerks, all sorts of very small fry. He made his living at it. He was a very decent man I believe. He had enough influence to place his only son as junior clerk in the account department of one of the Dock Companies. “Now, my boy,” he said to him, “I’ve given you a fine start.” But de Barral didn’t start. He stuck. He gave perfect satisfaction. At the end of three years he got a small rise of salary and went out courting in the evenings. He went courting the daughter of an old sea-captain who was a churchwarden of his parish and lived in an old badly preserved Georgian house with a garden: one of these houses standing in a reduced bit of “grounds” that you discover in a labyrinth of the most sordid streets, exactly alike and composed of six-roomed hutches.

Some of them were the vicarages of slum parishes. The old sailor had got hold of one cheap, and de Barral got hold of his daughter — which was a good bargain for him. The old sailor was very good to the young couple and very fond of their little girl. Mrs. de Barral was an equable, unassuming woman, at that time with a fund of simple gaiety, and with no ambitions; but, woman-like, she longed for change and for something interesting to happen now and then. It was she who encouraged de Barral to accept the offer of a post in the west-end branch of a great bank. It appears he shrank from such a great adventure for a long time. At last his wife’s arguments prevailed. Later on she used to say: ‘It’s the only time he ever listened to me; and I wonder now if it hadn’t been better for me to die before I ever made him go into that bank.’

You may be surprised at my knowledge of these details. Well, I had them ultimately from Mrs. Fyne. Mrs. Fyne while yet Miss Anthony, in her days of bondage, knew Mrs. de Barral in her days of exile. Mrs. de Barral was living then in a big stone mansion with mullioned windows in a large damp park, called the Priory, adjoining the village where the refined poet had built himself a house.

These were the days of de Barral’s success. He had bought the place without ever seeing it and had packed off his wife and child at once there to take possession. He did not know what to do with them in London. He himself had a suite of rooms in an hotel. He gave there dinner parties followed by cards in the evening. He had developed the gambling passion — or else a mere card mania — but at any rate he played heavily, for relaxation, with a lot of dubious hangers on.

Meantime Mrs. de Barral, expecting him every day, lived at the Priory, with a carriage and pair, a governess for the child and many servants. The village people would see her through the railings wandering under the trees with her little girl lost in her strange surroundings. Nobody ever came near her. And there she died as some faithful and delicate animals die — from neglect, absolutely from neglect, rather unexpectedly and without any fuss. The village was sorry for her because, though obviously worried about something, she was good to the poor and was always ready for a chat with any of the humble folks. Of course they knew that she wasn’t a lady — not what you would call a real lady. And even her acquaintance with Miss Anthony was only a cottage-door, a village-street acquaintance. Carleon Anthony was a tremendous aristocrat (his father had been a “restoring” architect) and his daughter was not allowed to associate with anyone but the county young ladies. Nevertheless in defiance of the poet’s wrathful concern for undefiled refinement there were some quiet, melancholy strolls to and fro in the great avenue of chestnuts leading to the park-gate, during which Mrs. de Barral came to call Miss Anthony ‘my dear’ — and even ‘my poor dear.’ The lonely soul had no one to talk to but that not very happy girl. The governess despised her. The housekeeper was distant in her manner. Moreover Mrs. de Barral was no foolish gossiping woman. But she made some confidences to Miss Anthony. Such wealth was a terrific thing to have thrust upon one she affirmed. Once she went so far as to confess that she was dying with anxiety. Mr. de Barral (so she referred to him) had been an excellent husband and an exemplary father but “you see my dear I have had a great experience of him. I am sure he won’t know what to do with all that money people are giving to him to take care of for them. He’s as likely as not to do something rash. When he comes here I must have a good long serious talk with him, like the talks we often used to have together in the good old times of our life.” And then one day a cry of anguish was wrung from her: ‘My dear, he will never come here, he will never, never come!’

She was wrong. He came to the funeral, was extremely cut up, and holding the child tightly by the hand wept bitterly at the side of the grave. Miss Anthony, at the cost of a whole week of sneers and abuse from the poet, saw it all with her own eyes. De Barral clung to the child like a drowning man. He managed, though, to catch the half-past five fast train, travelling to town alone in a reserved compartment, with all the blinds down . . . “

“Leaving the child?” I said interrogatively.

“Yes. Leaving . . . He shirked the problem. He was born that way. He had no idea what to do with her or for that matter with anything or anybody including himself. He bolted back to his suite of rooms in the hotel. He was the most helpless . . . She might have been left in the Priory to the end of time had not the high-toned governess threatened to send in her resignation. She didn’t care for the child a bit, and the lonely, gloomy Priory had got on her nerves. She wasn’t going to put up with such a life and, having just come out of some ducal family, she bullied de Barral in a very lofty fashion. To pacify her he took a splendidly furnished house in the most expensive part of Brighton for them, and now and then ran down for a week-end, with a trunk full of exquisite sweets and with his hat full of money. The governess spent it for him in extra ducal style. She was nearly forty and harboured a secret taste for patronizing young men of sorts — of a certain sort. But of that Mrs. Fyne of course had no personal knowledge then; she told me however that even in the Priory days she had suspected her of being an artificial, heartless, vulgar-minded woman with the lowest possible ideals. But de Barral did not know it. He literally did not know anything . . . “

“But tell me, Marlow,” I interrupted, “how do you account for this opinion? He must have been a personality in a sense — in some one sense surely. You don’t work the greatest material havoc of a decade at least, in a commercial community, without having something in you.”

Marlow shook his head.

“He was a mere sign, a portent. There was nothing in him. Just about that time the word Thrift was to the fore. You know the power of words. We pass through periods dominated by this or that word — it may be development, or it may be competition, or education, or purity or efficiency or even sanctity. It is the word of the time. Well just then it was the word Thrift which was out in the streets walking arm in arm with righteousness, the inseparable companion and backer up of all such national catch-words, looking everybody in the eye as it were. The very drabs of the pavement, poor things, didn’t escape the fascination . . . However! . . . Well the greatest portion of the press were screeching in all possible tones, like a confounded company of parrots instructed by some devil with a taste for practical jokes, that the financier de Barral was helping the great moral evolution of our character towards the newly-discovered virtue of Thrift. He was helping it by all these great establishments of his, which made the moral merits of Thrift manifest to the most callous hearts, simply by promising to pay ten per cent. interest on all deposits. And you didn’t want necessarily to belong to the well-to-do classes in order to participate in the advantages of virtue. If you had but a spare sixpence in the world and went and gave it to de Barral it was Thrift! It’s quite likely that he himself believed it. He must have. It’s inconceivable that he alone should stand out against the infatuation of the whole world. He hadn’t enough intelligence for that. But to look at him one couldn’t tell . . . “

“You did see him then?” I said with some curiosity.

“I did. Strange, isn’t it? It was only once, but as I sat with the distressed Fyne who had suddenly resuscitated his name buried in my memory with other dead labels of the past, I may say I saw him again, I saw him with great vividness of recollection, as he appeared in the days of his glory or splendour. No! Neither of these words will fit his success. There was never any glory or splendour about that figure. Well, let us say in the days when he was, according to the majority of the daily press, a financial force working for the improvement of the character of the people. I’ll tell you how it came about.

At that time I used to know a podgy, wealthy, bald little man having chambers in the Albany; a financier too, in his way, carrying out transactions of an intimate nature and of no moral character; mostly with young men of birth and expectations — though I dare say he didn’t withhold his ministrations from elderly plebeians either. He was a true democrat; he would have done business (a sharp kind of business) with the devil himself. Everything was fly that came into his web. He received the applicants in an alert, jovial fashion which was quite surprising. It gave relief without giving too much confidence, which was just as well perhaps. His business was transacted in an apartment furnished like a drawing-room, the walls hung with several brown, heavily-framed, oil paintings. I don’t know if they were good, but they were big, and with their elaborate, tarnished gilt-frames had a melancholy dignity. The man himself sat at a shining, inlaid writing table which looked like a rare piece from a museum of art; his chair had a high, oval, carved back, upholstered in faded tapestry; and these objects made of the costly black Havana cigar, which he rolled incessantly from the middle to the left corner of his mouth and back again, an inexpressibly cheap and nasty object. I had to see him several times in the interest of a poor devil so unlucky that he didn’t even have a more competent friend than myself to speak for him at a very difficult time in his life.

I don’t know at what hour my private financier began his day, but he used to give one appointments at unheard of times: such as a quarter to eight in the morning, for instance. On arriving one found him busy at that marvellous writing table, looking very fresh and alert, exhaling a faint fragrance of scented soap and with the cigar already well alight. You may believe that I entered on my mission with many unpleasant forebodings; but there was in that fat, admirably washed, little man such a profound contempt for mankind that it amounted to a species of good nature; which, unlike the milk of genuine kindness, was never in danger of turning sour. Then, once, during a pause in business, while we were waiting for the production of a document for which he had sent (perhaps to the cellar?) I happened to remark, glancing round the room, that I had never seen so many fine things assembled together out of a collection. Whether this was unconscious diplomacy on my part, or not, I shouldn’t like to say — but the remark was true enough, and it pleased him extremely. “It is a collection,” he said emphatically. “Only I live right in it, which most collectors don’t. But I see that you know what you are looking at. Not many people who come here on business do. Stable fittings are more in their way.”

I don’t know whether my appreciation helped to advance my friend’s business but at any rate it helped our intercourse. He treated me with a shade of familiarity as one of the initiated.

The last time I called on him to conclude the transaction we were interrupted by a person, something like a cross between a bookmaker and a private secretary, who, entering through a door which was not the anteroom door, walked up and stooped to whisper into his ear.

“Eh? What? Who, did you say?”

The nondescript person stooped and whispered again, adding a little louder: “Says he won’t detain you a moment.”

My little man glanced at me, said “Ah! Well,” irresolutely. I got up from my chair and offered to come again later. He looked whimsically alarmed. “No, no. It’s bad enough to lose my money but I don’t want to waste any more of my time over your friend. We must be done with this to-day. Just go and have a look at that garniture de cheminée yonder. There’s another, something like it, in the castle of Laeken, but mine’s much superior in design.”

I moved accordingly to the other side of that big room. The garniture was very fine. But while pretending to examine it I watched my man going forward to meet a tall visitor, who said, “I thought you would be disengaged so early. It’s only a word or two” — and after a whispered confabulation of no more than a minute, reconduct him to the door and shake hands ceremoniously. “Not at all, not at all. Very pleased to be of use. You can depend absolutely on my information” — ”Oh thank you, thank you. I just looked in.” “Certainly, quite right. Any time . . . Good morning.”

I had a good look at the visitor while they were exchanging these civilities. He was clad in black. I remember perfectly that he wore a flat, broad, black satin tie in which was stuck a large cameo pin; and a small turn down collar. His hair, discoloured and silky, curled slightly over his ears. His cheeks were hairless and round, and apparently soft. He held himself very upright, walked with small steps and spoke gently in an inward voice. Perhaps from contrast with the magnificent polish of the room and the neatness of its owner, he struck me as dingy, indigent, and, if not exactly humble, then much subdued by evil fortune.

I wondered greatly at my fat little financier’s civility to that dubious personage when he asked me, as we resumed our respective seats, whether I knew who it was that had just gone out. On my shaking my head negatively he smiled queerly, said “De Barral,” and enjoyed my surprise. Then becoming grave: “That’s a deep fellow, if you like. We all know where he started from and where he got to; but nobody knows what he means to do.” He became thoughtful for a moment and added as if speaking to himself, “I wonder what his game is.”

And, you know, there was no game, no game of any sort, or shape or kind. It came out plainly at the trial. As I’ve told you before, he was a clerk in a bank, like thousands of others. He got that berth as a second start in life and there he stuck again, giving perfect satisfaction. Then one day as though a supernatural voice had whispered into his ear or some invisible fly had stung him, he put on his hat, went out into the street and began advertising. That’s absolutely all that there was to it. He caught in the street the word of the time and harnessed it to his preposterous chariot.

One remembers his first modest advertisements headed with the magic word Thrift, Thrift, Thrift, thrice repeated; promising ten per cent. on all deposits and giving the address of the Thrift and Independence Aid Association in Vauxhall Bridge Road. Apparently nothing more was necessary. He didn’t even explain what he meant to do with the money he asked the public to pour into his lap. Of course he meant to lend it out at high rates of interest. He did so — but he did it without system, plan, foresight or judgment. And as he frittered away the sums that flowed in, he advertised for more — and got it. During a period of general business prosperity he set up The Orb Bank and The Sceptre Trust, simply, it seems for advertising purposes. They were mere names. He was totally unable to organize anything, to promote any sort of enterprise if it were only for the purpose of juggling with the shares. At that time he could have had for the asking any number of Dukes, retired Generals, active M.P.’s, ex-ambassadors and so on as Directors to sit at the wildest boards of his invention. But he never tried. He had no real imagination. All he could do was to publish more advertisements and open more branch offices of the Thrift and Independence, of The Orb, of The Sceptre, for the receipt of deposits; first in this town, then in that town, north and south — everywhere where he could find suitable premises at a moderate rent. For this was the great characteristic of the management. Modesty, moderation, simplicity. Neither The Orb nor The Sceptre nor yet their parent the Thrift and Independence had built for themselves the usual palaces. For this abstention they were praised in silly public prints as illustrating in their management the principle of Thrift for which they were founded. The fact is that de Barral simply didn’t think of it. Of course he had soon moved from Vauxhall Bridge Road. He knew enough for that. What he got hold of next was an old, enormous, rat-infested brick house in a small street off the Strand. Strangers were taken in front of the meanest possible, begrimed, yellowy, flat brick wall, with two rows of unadorned window-holes one above the other, and were exhorted with bated breath to behold and admire the simplicity of the head-quarters of the great financial force of the day. The word THRIFT perched right up on the roof in giant gilt letters, and two enormous shield-like brass-plates curved round the corners on each side of the doorway were the only shining spots in de Barral’s business outfit. Nobody knew what operations were carried on inside except this — that if you walked in and tendered your money over the counter it would be calmly taken from you by somebody who would give you a printed receipt. That and no more. It appears that such knowledge is irresistible. People went in and tendered; and once it was taken from their hands their money was more irretrievably gone from them than if they had thrown it into the sea. This then, and nothing else was being carried on in there . . . “

“Come, Marlow,” I said, “you exaggerate surely — if only by your way of putting things. It’s too startling.”

“I exaggerate!” he defended himself. “My way of putting things! My dear fellow I have merely stripped the rags of business verbiage and financial jargon off my statements. And you are startled! I am giving you the naked truth. It’s true too that nothing lays itself open to the charge of exaggeration more than the language of naked truth. What comes with a shock is admitted with difficulty. But what will you say to the end of his career?

It was of course sensational and tolerably sudden. It began with the Orb Deposit Bank. Under the name of that institution de Barral with the frantic obstinacy of an unimaginative man had been financing an Indian prince who was prosecuting a claim for immense sums of money against the government. It was an enormous number of scores of lakhs — a miserable remnant of his ancestors’ treasures — that sort of thing. And it was all authentic enough. There was a real prince; and the claim too was sufficiently real — only unfortunately it was not a valid claim. So the prince lost his case on the last appeal and the beginning of de Barral’s end became manifest to the public in the shape of a half-sheet of note paper wafered by the four corners on the closed door of The Orb offices notifying that payment was stopped at that establishment.

Its consort The Sceptre collapsed within the week. I won’t say in American parlance that suddenly the bottom fell out of the whole of de Barral concerns. There never had been any bottom to it. It was like the cask of Danaides into which the public had been pleased to pour its deposits. That they were gone was clear; and the bankruptcy proceedings which followed were like a sinister farce, bursts of laughter in a setting of mute anguish — that of the depositors; hundreds of thousands of them. The laughter was irresistible; the accompaniment of the bankrupt’s public examination.

I don’t know if it was from utter lack of all imagination or from the possession in undue proportion of a particular kind of it, or from both — and the three alternatives are possible — but it was discovered that this man who had been raised to such a height by the credulity of the public was himself more gullible than any of his depositors. He had been the prey of all sorts of swindlers, adventurers, visionaries and even lunatics. Wrapping himself up in deep and imbecile secrecy he had gone in for the most fantastic schemes: a harbour and docks on the coast of Patagonia, quarries in Labrador — such like speculations. Fisheries to feed a canning Factory on the banks of the Amazon was one of them. A principality to be bought in Madagascar was another. As the grotesque details of these incredible transactions came out one by one ripples of laughter ran over the closely packed court — each one a little louder than the other. The audience ended by fairly roaring under the cumulative effect of absurdity. The Registrar laughed, the barristers laughed, the reporters laughed, the serried ranks of the miserable depositors watching anxiously every word, laughed like one man. They laughed hysterically — the poor wretches — on the verge of tears.

There was only one person who remained unmoved. It was de Barral himself. He preserved his serene, gentle expression, I am told (for I have not witnessed those scenes myself), and looked around at the people with an air of placid sufficiency which was the first hint to the world of the man’s overweening, unmeasurable conceit, hidden hitherto under a diffident manner. It could be seen too in his dogged assertion that if he had been given enough time and a lot more money everything would have come right. And there were some people (yes, amongst his very victims) who more than half believed him, even after the criminal prosecution which soon followed. When placed in the dock he lost his steadiness as if some sustaining illusion had gone to pieces within him suddenly. He ceased to be himself in manner completely, and even in disposition, in so far that his faded neutral eyes matching his discoloured hair so well, were discovered then to be capable of expressing a sort of underhand hate. He was at first defiant, then insolent, then broke down and burst into tears; but it might have been from rage. Then he calmed down, returned to his soft manner of speech and to that unassuming quiet bearing which had been usual with him even in his greatest days. But it seemed as though in this moment of change he had at last perceived what a power he had been; for he remarked to one of the prosecuting counsel who had assumed a lofty moral tone in questioning him, that — yes, he had gambled — he liked cards. But that only a year ago a host of smart people would have been only too pleased to take a hand at cards with him. Yes — he went on — some of the very people who were there accommodated with seats on the bench; and turning upon the counsel “You yourself as well,” he cried. He could have had half the town at his rooms to fawn upon him if he had cared for that sort of thing. “Why, now I think of it, it took me most of my time to keep people, just of your sort, off me,” he ended with a good humoured — quite unobtrusive, contempt, as though the fact had dawned upon him for the first time.

This was the moment, the only moment, when he had perhaps all the audience in Court with him, in a hush of dreary silence. And then the dreary proceedings were resumed. For all the outside excitement it was the most dreary of all celebrated trials. The bankruptcy proceedings had exhausted all the laughter there was in it. Only the fact of wide-spread ruin remained, and the resentment of a mass of people for having been fooled by means too simple to save their self-respect from a deep wound which the cleverness of a consummate scoundrel would not have inflicted. A shamefaced amazement attended these proceedings in which de Barral was not being exposed alone. For himself his only cry was: Time! Time! Time would have set everything right. In time some of these speculations of his were certain to have succeeded. He repeated this defence, this excuse, this confession of faith, with wearisome iteration. Everything he had done or left undone had been to gain time. He had hypnotized himself with the word. Sometimes, I am told, his appearance was ecstatic, his motionless pale eyes seemed to be gazing down the vista of future ages. Time — and of course, more money. “Ah! If only you had left me alone for a couple of years more,” he cried once in accents of passionate belief. “The money was coming in all right.” The deposits you understand — the savings of Thrift. Oh yes they had been coming in to the very last moment. And he regretted them. He had arrived to regard them as his own by a sort of mystical persuasion. And yet it was a perfectly true cry, when he turned once more on the counsel who was beginning a question with the words “You have had all these immense sums . . . “ with the indignant retort “What have I had out of them?”

“It was perfectly true. He had had nothing out of them — nothing of the prestigious or the desirable things of the earth, craved for by predatory natures. He had gratified no tastes, had known no luxury; he had built no gorgeous palaces, had formed no splendid galleries out of these “immense sums.” He had not even a home. He had gone into these rooms in an hotel and had stuck there for years, giving no doubt perfect satisfaction to the management. They had twice raised his rent to show I suppose their high sense of his distinguished patronage. He had bought for himself out of all the wealth streaming through his fingers neither adulation nor love, neither splendour nor comfort. There was something perfect in his consistent mediocrity. His very vanity seemed to miss the gratification of even the mere show of power. In the days when he was most fully in the public eye the invincible obscurity of his origins clung to him like a shadowy garment. He had handled millions without ever enjoying anything of what is counted as precious in the community of men, because he had neither the brutality of temperament nor the fineness of mind to make him desire them with the will power of a masterful adventurer . . . “

“You seem to have studied the man,” I observed.

“Studied,” repeated Marlow thoughtfully. “No! Not studied. I had no opportunities. You know that I saw him only on that one occasion I told you of. But it may be that a glimpse and no more is the proper way of seeing an individuality; and de Barral was that, in virtue of his very deficiencies for they made of him something quite unlike one’s preconceived ideas. There were also very few materials accessible to a man like me to form a judgment from. But in such a case I verify believe that a little is as good as a feast — perhaps better. If one has a taste for that kind of thing the merest starting-point becomes a coign of vantage, and then by a series of logically deducted verisimilitudes one arrives at truth — or very near the truth — as near as any circumstantial evidence can do. I have not studied de Barral but that is how I understand him so far as he could be understood through the din of the crash; the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the newspaper contents bills, “The Thrift Frauds. Cross-examination of the accused. Extra special” — blazing fiercely; the charitable appeals for the victims, the grave tones of the dailies rumbling with compassion as if they were the national bowels. All this lasted a whole week of industrious sittings. A pressman whom I knew told me “He’s an idiot.” Which was possible. Before that I overheard once somebody declaring that he had a criminal type of face; which I knew was untrue. The sentence was pronounced by artificial light in a stifling poisonous atmosphere. Something edifying was said by the judge weightily, about the retribution overtaking the perpetrator of “the most heartless frauds on an unprecedented scale.” I don’t understand these things much, but it appears that he had juggled with accounts, cooked balance sheets, had gathered in deposits months after he ought to have known himself to be hopelessly insolvent, and done enough of other things, highly reprehensible in the eyes of the law, to earn for himself seven years’ penal servitude. The sentence making its way outside met with a good reception. A small mob composed mainly of people who themselves did not look particularly clever and scrupulous, leavened by a slight sprinkling of genuine pickpockets amused itself by cheering in the most penetrating, abominable cold drizzle that I remember. I happened to be passing there on my way from the East End where I had spent my day about the Docks with an old chum who was looking after the fitting out of a new ship. I am always eager, when allowed, to call on a new ship. They interest me like charming young persons.

I got mixed up in that crowd seething with an animosity as senseless as things of the street always are, and it was while I was laboriously making my way out of it that the pressman of whom I spoke was jostled against me. He did me the justice to be surprised. “What? You here! The last person in the world . . . If I had known I could have got you inside. Plenty of room. Interest been over for the last three days. Got seven years. Well, I am glad.”

“Why are you glad? Because he’s got seven years?” I asked, greatly incommoded by the pressure of a hulking fellow who was remarking to some of his equally oppressive friends that the “beggar ought to have been poleaxed.” I don’t know whether he had ever confided his savings to de Barral but if so, judging from his appearance, they must have been the proceeds of some successful burglary. The pressman by my side said ‘No,’ to my question. He was glad because it was all over. He had suffered greatly from the heat and the bad air of the court. The clammy, raw, chill of the streets seemed to affect his liver instantly. He became contemptuous and irritable and plied his elbows viciously making way for himself and me.

A dull affair this. All such cases were dull. No really dramatic moments. The book-keeping of The Orb and all the rest of them was certainly a burlesque revelation but the public did not care for revelations of that kind. Dull dog that de Barral — he grumbled. He could not or would not take the trouble to characterize for me the appearance of that man now officially a criminal (we had gone across the road for a drink) but told me with a sourly, derisive snigger that, after the sentence had been pronounced the fellow clung to the dock long enough to make a sort of protest. ‘You haven’t given me time. If I had been given time I would have ended by being made a peer like some of them.’ And he had permitted himself his very first and last gesture in all these days, raising a hard-clenched fist above his head.

The pressman disapproved of that manifestation. It was not his business to understand it. Is it ever the business of any pressman to understand anything? I guess not. It would lead him too far away from the actualities which are the daily bread of the public mind. He probably thought the display worth very little from a picturesque point of view; the weak voice; the colourless personality as incapable of an attitude as a bed-post, the very fatuity of the clenched hand so ineffectual at that time and place — no, it wasn’t worth much. And then, for him, an accomplished craftsman in his trade, thinking was distinctly “bad business.” His business was to write a readable account. But I who had nothing to write, I permitted myself to use my mind as we sat before our still untouched glasses. And the disclosure which so often rewards a moment of detachment from mere visual impressions gave me a thrill very much approaching a shudder. I seemed to understand that, with the shock of the agonies and perplexities of his trial, the imagination of that man, whose moods, notions and motives wore frequently an air of grotesque mystery — that his imagination had been at last roused into activity. And this was awful. Just try to enter into the feelings of a man whose imagination wakes up at the very moment he is about to enter the tomb . . . “

* * * * *

“You must not think,” went on Marlow after a pause, “that on that morning with Fyne I went consciously in my mind over all this, let us call it information; no, better say, this fund of knowledge which I had, or rather which existed, in me in regard to de Barral. Information is something one goes out to seek and puts away when found as you might do a piece of lead: ponderous, useful, unvibrating, dull. Whereas knowledge comes to one, this sort of knowledge, a chance acquisition preserving in its repose a fine resonant quality . . . But as such distinctions touch upon the transcendental I shall spare you the pain of listening to them. There are limits to my cruelty. No! I didn’t reckon up carefully in my mind all this I have been telling you. How could I have done so, with Fyne right there in the room? He sat perfectly still, statuesque in homely fashion, after having delivered himself of his effective assent: “Yes. The convict,” and I, far from indulging in a reminiscent excursion into the past, remained sufficiently in the present to muse in a vague, absent-minded way on the respectable proportions and on the (upon the whole) comely shape of his great pedestrian’s calves, for he had thrown one leg over his knee, carelessly, to conceal the trouble of his mind by an air of ease. But all the same the knowledge was in me, the awakened resonance of which I spoke just now; I was aware of it on that beautiful day, so fresh, so warm and friendly, so accomplished — an exquisite courtesy of the much abused English climate when it makes up its meteorological mind to behave like a perfect gentleman. Of course the English climate is never a rough. It suffers from spleen somewhat frequently — but that is gentlemanly too, and I don’t mind going to meet him in that mood. He has his days of grey, veiled, polite melancholy, in which he is very fascinating. How seldom he lapses into a blustering manner, after all! And then it is mostly in a season when, appropriately enough, one may go out and kill something. But his fine days are the best for stopping at home, to read, to think, to muse — even to dream; in fact to live fully, intensely and quietly, in the brightness of comprehension, in that receptive glow of the mind, the gift of the clear, luminous and serene weather.

That day I had intended to live intensely and quietly, basking in the weather’s glory which would have lent enchantment to the most unpromising of intellectual prospects. For a companion I had found a book, not bemused with the cleverness of the day — a fine-weather book, simple and sincere like the talk of an unselfish friend. But looking at little Fyne seated in the room I understood that nothing would come of my contemplative aspirations; that in one way or another I should be let in for some form of severe exercise. Walking, it would be, I feared, since, for me, that idea was inseparably associated with the visual impression of Fyne. Where, why, how, a rapid striding rush could be brought in helpful relation to the good Fyne’s present trouble and perplexity I could not imagine; except on the principle that senseless pedestrianism was Fyne’s panacea for all the ills and evils bodily and spiritual of the universe. It could be of no use for me to say or do anything. It was bound to come. Contemplating his muscular limb encased in a golf-stocking, and under the strong impression of the information he had just imparted I said wondering, rather irrationally:

“And so de Barral had a wife and child! That girl’s his daughter. And how . . . “

Fyne interrupted me by stating again earnestly, as though it were something not easy to believe, that his wife and himself had tried to befriend the girl in every way — indeed they had! I did not doubt him for a moment, of course, but my wonder at this was more rational. At that hour of the morning, you mustn’t forget, I knew nothing as yet of Mrs. Fyne’s contact (it was hardly more) with de Barral’s wife and child during their exile at the Priory, in the culminating days of that man’s fame.

Fyne who had come over, it was clear, solely to talk to me on that subject, gave me the first hint of this initial, merely out of doors, connection. “The girl was quite a child then,” he continued. “Later on she was removed out of Mrs. Fyne’s reach in charge of a governess — a very unsatisfactory person,” he explained. His wife had then — h’m — met him; and on her marriage she lost sight of the child completely. But after the birth of Polly (Polly was the third Fyne girl) she did not get on very well, and went to Brighton for some months to recover her strength — and there, one day in the street, the child (she wore her hair down her back still) recognized her outside a shop and rushed, actually rushed, into Mrs. Fyne’s arms. Rather touching this. And so, disregarding the cold impertinence of that . . . h’m . . . governess, his wife naturally responded.

He was solemnly fragmentary. I broke in with the observation that it must have been before the crash.

Fyne nodded with deepened gravity, stating in his bass tone —

“Just before,” and indulged himself with a weighty period of solemn silence.

De Barral, he resumed suddenly, was not coming to Brighton for week-ends regularly, then. Must have been conscious already of the approaching disaster. Mrs. Fyne avoided being drawn into making his acquaintance, and this suited the views of the governess person, very jealous of any outside influence. But in any case it would not have been an easy matter. Extraordinary, stiff-backed, thin figure all in black, the observed of all, while walking hand-in-hand with the girl; apparently shy, but — and here Fyne came very near showing something like insight — probably nursing under a diffident manner a considerable amount of secret arrogance. Mrs. Fyne pitied Flora de Barral’s fate long before the catastrophe. Most unfortunate guidance. Very unsatisfactory surroundings. The girl was known in the streets, was stared at in public places as if she had been a sort of princess, but she was kept with a very ominous consistency, from making any acquaintances — though of course there were many people no doubt who would have been more than willing to — h’m — make themselves agreeable to Miss de Barral. But this did not enter into the plans of the governess, an intriguing person hatching a most sinister plot under her severe air of distant, fashionable exclusiveness. Good little Fyne’s eyes bulged with solemn horror as he revealed to me, in agitated speech, his wife’s more than suspicions, at the time, of that, Mrs., Mrs. What’s her name’s perfidious conduct. She actually seemed to have — Mrs. Fyne asserted — formed a plot already to marry eventually her charge to an impecunious relation of her own — a young man with furtive eyes and something impudent in his manner, whom that woman called her nephew, and whom she was always having down to stay with her.

“And perhaps not her nephew. No relation at all” — Fyne emitted with a convulsive effort this, the most awful part of the suspicions Mrs. Fyne used to impart to him piecemeal when he came down to spend his week-ends gravely with her and the children. The Fynes, in their good-natured concern for the unlucky child of the man busied in stirring casually so many millions, spent the moments of their weekly reunion in wondering earnestly what could be done to defeat the most wicked of conspiracies, trying to invent some tactful line of conduct in such extraordinary circumstances. I could see them, simple, and scrupulous, worrying honestly about that unprotected big girl while looking at their own little girls playing on the sea-shore. Fyne assured me that his wife’s rest was disturbed by the great problem of interference.

“It was very acute of Mrs. Fyne to spot such a deep game,” I said, wondering to myself where her acuteness had gone to now, to let her be taken unawares by a game so much simpler and played to the end under her very nose. But then, at that time, when her nightly rest was disturbed by the dread of the fate preparing for de Barral’s unprotected child, she was not engaged in writing a compendious and ruthless hand-book on the theory and practice of life, for the use of women with a grievance. She could as yet, before the task of evolving the philosophy of rebellious action had affected her intuitive sharpness, perceive things which were, I suspect, moderately plain. For I am inclined to believe that the woman whom chance had put in command of Flora de Barral’s destiny took no very subtle pains to conceal her game. She was conscious of being a complete master of the situation, having once for all established her ascendancy over de Barral. She had taken all her measures against outside observation of her conduct; and I could not help smiling at the thought what a ghastly nuisance the serious, innocent Fynes must have been to her. How exasperated she must have been by that couple falling into Brighton as completely unforeseen as a bolt from the blue — if not so prompt. How she must have hated them!

But I conclude she would have carried out whatever plan she might have formed. I can imagine de Barral accustomed for years to defer to her wishes and, either through arrogance, or shyness, or simply because of his unimaginative stupidity, remaining outside the social pale, knowing no one but some card-playing cronies; I can picture him to myself terrified at the prospect of having the care of a marriageable girl thrust on his hands, forcing on him a complete change of habits and the necessity of another kind of existence which he would not even have known how to begin. It is evident to me that Mrs. What’s her name would have had her atrocious way with very little trouble even if the excellent Fynes had been able to do something. She would simply have bullied de Barral in a lofty style. There’s nothing more subservient than an arrogant man when his arrogance has once been broken in some particular instance.

However there was no time and no necessity for any one to do anything. The situation itself vanished in the financial crash as a building vanishes in an earthquake — here one moment and gone the next with only an ill-omened, slight, preliminary rumble. Well, to say ‘in a moment’ is an exaggeration perhaps; but that everything was over in just twenty-four hours is an exact statement. Fyne was able to tell me all about it; and the phrase that would depict the nature of the change best is: an instant and complete destitution. I don’t understand these matters very well, but from Fyne’s narrative it seemed as if the creditors or the depositors, or the competent authorities, had got hold in the twinkling of an eye of everything de Barral possessed in the world, down to his watch and chain, the money in his trousers’ pocket, his spare suits of clothes, and I suppose the cameo pin out of his black satin cravat. Everything! I believe he gave up the very wedding ring of his late wife. The gloomy Priory with its damp park and a couple of farms had been made over to Mrs. de Barral; but when she died (without making a will) it reverted to him, I imagine. They got that of course; but it was a mere crumb in a Sahara of starvation, a drop in the thirsty ocean. I dare say that not a single soul in the world got the comfort of as much as a recovered threepenny bit out of the estate. Then, less than crumbs, less than drops, there were to be grabbed, the lease of the big Brighton house, the furniture therein, the carriage and pair, the girl’s riding horse, her costly trinkets; down to the heavily gold-mounted collar of her pedigree St. Bernard. The dog too went: the most noble-looking item in the beggarly assets.

What however went first of all or rather vanished was nothing in the nature of an asset. It was that plotting governess with the trick of a “perfect lady” manner (severely conventional) and the soul of a remorseless brigand. When a woman takes to any sort of unlawful man-trade, there’s nothing to beat her in the way of thoroughness. It’s true that you will find people who’ll tell you that this terrific virulence in breaking through all established things, is altogether the fault of men. Such people will ask you with a clever air why the servile wars were always the most fierce, desperate and atrocious of all wars. And you may make such answer as you can — even the eminently feminine one, if you choose, so typical of the women’s literal mind “I don’t see what this has to do with it!” How many arguments have been knocked over (I won’t say knocked down) by these few words! For if we men try to put the spaciousness of all experiences into our reasoning and would fain put the Infinite itself into our love, it isn’t, as some writer has remarked, “It isn’t women’s doing.” Oh no. They don’t care for these things. That sort of aspiration is not much in their way; and it shall be a funny world, the world of their arranging, where the Irrelevant would fantastically step in to take the place of the sober humdrum Imaginative . . . “

I raised my hand to stop my friend Marlow.

“Do you really believe what you have said?” I asked, meaning no offence, because with Marlow one never could be sure.

“Only on certain days of the year,” said Marlow readily with a malicious smile. “To-day I have been simply trying to be spacious and I perceive I’ve managed to hurt your susceptibilities which are consecrated to women. When you sit alone and silent you are defending in your mind the poor women from attacks which cannot possibly touch them. I wonder what can touch them? But to soothe your uneasiness I will point out again that an Irrelevant world would be very amusing, if the women take care to make it as charming as they alone can, by preserving for us certain well-known, well-established, I’ll almost say hackneyed, illusions, without which the average male creature cannot get on. And that condition is very important. For there is nothing more provoking than the Irrelevant when it has ceased to amuse and charm; and then the danger would be of the subjugated masculinity in its exasperation, making some brusque, unguarded movement and accidentally putting its elbow through the fine tissue of the world of which I speak. And that would be fatal to it. For nothing looks more irretrievably deplorable than fine tissue which has been damaged. The women themselves would be the first to become disgusted with their own creation.

There was something of women’s highly practical sanity and also of their irrelevancy in the conduct of Miss de Barral’s amazing governess. It appeared from Fyne’s narrative that the day before the first rumble of the cataclysm the questionable young man arrived unexpectedly in Brighton to stay with his “Aunt.” To all outward appearance everything was going on normally; the fellow went out riding with the girl in the afternoon as he often used to do — a sight which never failed to fill Mrs. Fyne with indignation. Fyne himself was down there with his family for a whole week and was called to the window to behold the iniquity in its progress and to share in his wife’s feelings. There was not even a groom with them. And Mrs. Fyne’s distress was so strong at this glimpse of the unlucky girl all unconscious of her danger riding smilingly by, that Fyne began to consider seriously whether it wasn’t their plain duty to interfere at all risks — simply by writing a letter to de Barral. He said to his wife with a solemnity I can easily imagine “You ought to undertake that task, my dear. You have known his wife after all. That’s something at any rate.” On the other hand the fear of exposing Mrs. Fyne to some nasty rebuff worried him exceedingly. Mrs. Fyne on her side gave way to despondency. Success seemed impossible. Here was a woman for more than five years in charge of the girl and apparently enjoying the complete confidence of the father. What, that would be effective, could one say, without proofs, without . . . This Mr. de Barral must be, Mrs. Fyne pronounced, either a very stupid or a downright bad man, to neglect his child so.

You will notice that perhaps because of Fyne’s solemn view of our transient life and Mrs. Fyne’s natural capacity for responsibility, it had never occurred to them that the simplest way out of the difficulty was to do nothing and dismiss the matter as no concern of theirs. Which in a strict worldly sense it certainly was not. But they spent, Fyne told me, a most disturbed afternoon, considering the ways and means of dealing with the danger hanging over the head of the girl out for a ride (and no doubt enjoying herself) with an abominable scamp.

Chapter 4 — the Governess

And the best of it was that the danger was all over already. There was no danger any more. The supposed nephew’s appearance had a purpose. He had come, full, full to trembling — with the bigness of his news. There must have been rumours already as to the shaky position of the de Barral’s concerns; but only amongst those in the very inmost know. No rumour or echo of rumour had reached the profane in the West-End — let alone in the guileless marine suburb of Hove. The Fynes had no suspicion; the governess, playing with cold, distinguished exclusiveness the part of mother to the fabulously wealthy Miss de Barral, had no suspicion; the masters of music, of drawing, of dancing to Miss de Barral, had no idea; the minds of her medical man, of her dentist, of the servants in the house, of the tradesmen proud of having the name of de Barral on their books, were in a state of absolute serenity. Thus, that fellow, who had unexpectedly received a most alarming straight tip from somebody in the City arrived in Brighton, at about lunch-time, with something very much in the nature of a deadly bomb in his possession. But he knew better than to throw it on the public pavement. He ate his lunch impenetrably, sitting opposite Flora de Barral, and then, on some excuse, closeted himself with the woman whom little Fyne’s charity described (with a slight hesitation of speech however) as his “Aunt.”

What they said to each other in private we can imagine. She came out of her own sitting-room with red spots on her cheek-bones, which having provoked a question from her “beloved” charge, were accounted for by a curt “I have a headache coming on.” But we may be certain that the talk being over she must have said to that young blackguard: “You had better take her out for a ride as usual.” We have proof positive of this in Fyne and Mrs. Fyne observing them mount at the door and pass under the windows of their sitting-room, talking together, and the poor girl all smiles; because she enjoyed in all innocence the company of Charley. She made no secret of it whatever to Mrs. Fyne; in fact, she had confided to her, long before, that she liked him very much: a confidence which had filled Mrs. Fyne with desolation and that sense of powerless anguish which is experienced in certain kinds of nightmare. For how could she warn the girl? She did venture to tell her once that she didn’t like Mr. Charley. Miss de Barral heard her with astonishment. How was it possible not to like Charley? Afterwards with naïve loyalty she told Mrs. Fyne that, immensely as she was fond of her she could not hear a word against Charley — the wonderful Charley.

The daughter of de Barral probably enjoyed her jolly ride with the jolly Charley (infinitely more jolly than going out with a stupid old riding-master), very much indeed, because the Fynes saw them coming back at a later hour than usual. In fact it was getting nearly dark. On dismounting, helped off by the delightful Charley, she patted the neck of her horse and went up the steps. Her last ride. She was then within a few days of her sixteenth birthday, a slight figure in a riding habit, rather shorter than the average height for her age, in a black bowler hat from under which her fine rippling dark hair cut square at the ends was hanging well down her back. The delightful Charley mounted again to take the two horses round to the mews. Mrs. Fyne remaining at the window saw the house door close on Miss de Barral returning from her last ride.

And meantime what had the governess (out of a nobleman’s family) so judiciously selected (a lady, and connected with well-known county people as she said) to direct the studies, guard the health, form the mind, polish the manners, and generally play the perfect mother to that luckless child — what had she been doing? Well, having got rid of her charge by the most natural device possible, which proved her practical sense, she started packing her belongings, an act which showed her clear view of the situation. She had worked methodically, rapidly, and well, emptying the drawers, clearing the tables in her special apartment of that big house, with something silently passionate in her thoroughness; taking everything belonging to her and some things of less unquestionable ownership, a jewelled penholder, an ivory and gold paper knife (the house was full of common, costly objects), some chased silver boxes presented by de Barral and other trifles; but the photograph of Flora de Barral, with the loving inscription, which stood on her writing desk, of the most modern and expensive style, in a silver-gilt frame, she neglected to take. Having accidentally, in the course of the operations, knocked it off on the floor she let it lie there after a downward glance. Thus it, or the frame at least, became, I suppose, part of the assets in the de Barral bankruptcy.

At dinner that evening the child found her company dull and brusque. It was uncommonly slow. She could get nothing from her governess but monosyllables, and the jolly Charley actually snubbed the various cheery openings of his “little chum” — as he used to call her at times, — but not at that time. No doubt the couple were nervous and preoccupied. For all this we have evidence, and for the fact that Flora being offended with the delightful nephew of her profoundly respected governess sulked through the rest of the evening and was glad to retire early. Mrs., Mrs. — I’ve really forgotten her name — the governess, invited her nephew to her sitting-room, mentioning aloud that it was to talk over some family matters. This was meant for Flora to hear, and she heard it — without the slightest interest. In fact there was nothing sufficiently unusual in such an invitation to arouse in her mind even a passing wonder. She went bored to bed and being tired with her long ride slept soundly all night. Her last sleep, I won’t say of innocence — that word would not render my exact meaning, because it has a special meaning of its own — but I will say: of that ignorance, or better still, of that unconsciousness of the world’s ways, the unconsciousness of danger, of pain, of humiliation, of bitterness, of falsehood. An unconsciousness which in the case of other beings like herself is removed by a gradual process of experience and information, often only partial at that, with saving reserves, softening doubts, veiling theories. Her unconsciousness of the evil which lives in the secret thoughts and therefore in the open acts of mankind, whenever it happens that evil thought meets evil courage; her unconsciousness was to be broken into with profane violence with desecrating circumstances, like a temple violated by a mad, vengeful impiety. Yes, that very young girl, almost no more than a child — this was what was going to happen to her. And if you ask me, how, wherefore, for what reason? I will answer you: Why, by chance! By the merest chance, as things do happen, lucky and unlucky, terrible or tender, important or unimportant; and even things which are neither, things so completely neutral in character that you would wonder why they do happen at all if you didn’t know that they, too, carry in their insignificance the seeds of further incalculable chances.

Of course, all the chances were that de Barral should have fallen upon a perfectly harmless, naïve, usual, inefficient specimen of respectable governess for his daughter; or on a commonplace silly adventuress who would have tried, say, to marry him or work some other sort of common mischief in a small way. Or again he might have chanced on a model of all the virtues, or the repository of all knowledge, or anything equally harmless, conventional, and middle class. All calculations were in his favour; but, chance being incalculable, he fell upon an individuality whom it is much easier to define by opprobrious names than to classify in a calm and scientific spirit — but an individuality certainly, and a temperament as well. Rare? No. There is a certain amount of what I would politely call unscrupulousness in all of us. Think for instance of the excellent Mrs. Fyne, who herself, and in the bosom of her family, resembled a governess of a conventional type. Only, her mental excesses were theoretical, hedged in by so much humane feeling and conventional reserves, that they amounted to no more than mere libertinage of thought; whereas the other woman, the governess of Flora de Barral, was, as you may have noticed, severely practical — terribly practical. No! Hers was not a rare temperament, except in its fierce resentment of repression; a feeling which like genius or lunacy is apt to drive people into sudden irrelevancy. Hers was feminine irrelevancy. A male genius, a male ruffian, or even a male lunatic, would not have behaved exactly as she did behave. There is a softness in masculine nature, even the most brutal, which acts as a check.

While the girl slept those two, the woman of forty, an age in itself terrible, and that hopeless young “wrong ‘un” of twenty-three (also well connected I believe) had some sort of subdued row in the cleared rooms: wardrobes open, drawers half pulled out and empty, trunks locked and strapped, furniture in idle disarray, and not so much as a single scrap of paper left behind on the tables. The maid, whom the governess and the pupil shared between them, after finishing with Flora, came to the door as usual, but was not admitted. She heard the two voices in dispute before she knocked, and then being sent away retreated at once — the only person in the house convinced at that time that there was “something up.”

Dark and, so to speak, inscrutable spaces being met with in life there must be such places in any statement dealing with life. In what I am telling you of now — an episode of one of my humdrum holidays in the green country, recalled quite naturally after all the years by our meeting a man who has been a blue-water sailor — this evening confabulation is a dark, inscrutable spot. And we may conjecture what we like. I have no difficulty in imagining that the woman — of forty, and the chief of the enterprise — must have raged at large. And perhaps the other did not rage enough. Youth feels deeply it is true, but it has not the same vivid sense of lost opportunities. It believes in the absolute reality of time. And then, in that abominable scamp with his youth already soiled, withered like a plucked flower ready to be flung on some rotting heap of rubbish, no very genuine feeling about anything could exist — not even about the hazards of his own unclean existence. A sneering half-laugh with some such remark as: “We are properly sold and no mistake” would have been enough to make trouble in that way. And then another sneer, “Waste time enough over it too,” followed perhaps by the bitter retort from the other party “You seemed to like it well enough though, playing the fool with that chit of a girl.” Something of that sort. Don’t you see it — eh . . . “

Marlow looked at me with his dark penetrating glance. I was struck by the absolute verisimilitude of this suggestion. But we were always tilting at each other. I saw an opening and pushed my uncandid thrust.

“You have a ghastly imagination,” I said with a cheerfully sceptical smile.

“Well, and if I have,” he returned unabashed. “But let me remind you that this situation came to me unasked. I am like a puzzle-headed chief-mate we had once in the dear old Samarcand when I was a youngster. The fellow went gravely about trying to “account to himself” — his favourite expression — for a lot of things no one would care to bother one’s head about. He was an old idiot but he was also an accomplished practical seaman. I was quite a boy and he impressed me. I must have caught the disposition from him.”

“Well — go on with your accounting then,” I said, assuming an air of resignation.

“That’s just it.” Marlow fell into his stride at once. “That’s just it. Mere disappointed cupidity cannot account for the proceedings of the next morning; proceedings which I shall not describe to you — but which I shall tell you of presently, not as a matter of conjecture but of actual fact. Meantime returning to that evening altercation in deadened tones within the private apartment of Miss de Barral’s governess, what if I were to tell you that disappointment had most likely made them touchy with each other, but that perhaps the secret of his careless, railing behaviour, was in the thought, springing up within him with an emphatic oath of relief “Now there’s nothing to prevent me from breaking away from that old woman.” And that the secret of her envenomed rage, not against this miserable and attractive wretch, but against fate, accident and the whole course of human life, concentrating its venom on de Barral and including the innocent girl herself, was in the thought, in the fear crying within her “Now I have nothing to hold him with . . . “

I couldn’t refuse Marlow the tribute of a prolonged whistle “Phew! So you suppose that . . . “

He waved his hand impatiently.

“I don’t suppose. It was so. And anyhow why shouldn’t you accept the supposition. Do you look upon governesses as creatures above suspicion or necessarily of moral perfection? I suppose their hearts would not stand looking into much better than other people’s. Why shouldn’t a governess have passions, all the passions, even that of libertinage, and even ungovernable passions; yet suppressed by the very same means which keep the rest of us in order: early training — necessity — circumstances — fear of consequences; till there comes an age, a time when the restraint of years becomes intolerable — and infatuation irresistible . . . “

“But if infatuation — quite possible I admit,” I argued, “how do you account for the nature of the conspiracy.”

“You expect a cogency of conduct not usual in women,” said Marlow. “The subterfuges of a menaced passion are not to be fathomed. You think it is going on the way it looks, whereas it is capable, for its own ends, of walking backwards into a precipice.

When one once acknowledges that she was not a common woman, then all this is easily understood. She was abominable but she was not common. She had suffered in her life not from its constant inferiority but from constant self-repression. A common woman finding herself placed in a commanding position might have formed the design to become the second Mrs. de Barral. Which would have been impracticable. De Barral would not have known what to do with a wife. But even if by some impossible chance he had made advances, this governess would have repulsed him with scorn. She had treated him always as an inferior being with an assured, distant politeness. In her composed, schooled manner she despised and disliked both father and daughter exceedingly. I have a notion that she had always disliked intensely all her charges including the two ducal (if they were ducal) little girls with whom she had dazzled de Barral. What an odious, ungratified existence it must have been for a woman as avid of all the sensuous emotions which life can give as most of her betters.

She had seen her youth vanish, her freshness disappear, her hopes die, and now she felt her flaming middle-age slipping away from her. No wonder that with her admirably dressed, abundant hair, thickly sprinkled with white threads and adding to her elegant aspect the piquant distinction of a powdered coiffure — no wonder, I say, that she clung desperately to her last infatuation for that graceless young scamp, even to the extent of hatching for him that amazing plot. He was not so far gone in degradation as to make him utterly hopeless for such an attempt. She hoped to keep him straight with that enormous bribe. She was clearly a woman uncommon enough to live without illusions — which, of course, does not mean that she was reasonable. She had said to herself, perhaps with a fury of self-contempt “In a few years I shall be too old for anybody. Meantime I shall have him — and I shall hold him by throwing to him the money of that ordinary, silly, little girl of no account.” Well, it was a desperate expedient — but she thought it worth while. And besides there is hardly a woman in the world, no matter how hard, depraved or frantic, in whom something of the maternal instinct does not survive, unconsumed like a salamander, in the fires of the most abandoned passion. Yes there might have been that sentiment for him too. There was no doubt. So I say again: No wonder! No wonder that she raged at everything — and perhaps even at him, with contradictory reproaches: for regretting the girl, a little fool who would never in her life be worth anybody’s attention, and for taking the disaster itself with a cynical levity in which she perceived a flavour of revolt.

And so the altercation in the night went on, over the irremediable. He arguing “What’s the hurry? Why clear out like this?” perhaps a little sorry for the girl and as usual without a penny in his pocket, appreciating the comfortable quarters, wishing to linger on as long as possible in the shameless enjoyment of this already doomed luxury. There was really no hurry for a few days. Always time enough to vanish. And, with that, a touch of masculine softness, a sort of regard for appearances surviving his degradation: “You might behave decently at the last, Eliza.” But there was no softness in the sallow face under the gala effect of powdered hair, its formal calmness gone, the dark-ringed eyes glaring at him with a sort of hunger. “No! No! If it is as you say then not a day, not an hour, not a moment.” She stuck to it, very determined that there should be no more of that boy and girl philandering since the object of it was gone; angry with herself for having suffered from it so much in the past, furious at its having been all in vain.

But she was reasonable enough not to quarrel with him finally. What was the good? She found means to placate him. The only means. As long as there was some money to be got she had hold of him. “Now go away. We shall do no good by any more of this sort of talk. I want to be alone for a bit.” He went away, sulkily acquiescent. There was a room always kept ready for him on the same floor, at the further end of a short thickly carpeted passage.

How she passed the night, this woman with no illusions to help her through the hours which must have been sleepless I shouldn’t like to say. It ended at last; and this strange victim of the de Barral failure, whose name would never be known to the Official Receiver, came down to breakfast, impenetrable in her everyday perfection. From the very first, somehow, she had accepted the fatal news for true. All her life she had never believed in her luck, with that pessimism of the passionate who at bottom feel themselves to be the outcasts of a morally restrained universe. But this did not make it any easier, on opening the morning paper feverishly, to see the thing confirmed. Oh yes! It was there. The Orb had suspended payment — the first growl of the storm faint as yet, but to the initiated the forerunner of a deluge. As an item of news it was not indecently displayed. It was not displayed at all in a sense. The serious paper, the only one of the great dailies which had always maintained an attitude of reserve towards the de Barral group of banks, had its “manner.” Yes! a modest item of news! But there was also, on another page, a special financial article in a hostile tone beginning with the words “We have always feared” and a guarded, half-column leader, opening with the phrase: “It is a deplorable sign of the times” what was, in effect, an austere, general rebuke to the absurd infatuations of the investing public. She glanced through these articles, a line here and a line there — no more was necessary to catch beyond doubt the murmur of the oncoming flood. Several slighting references by name to de Barral revived her animosity against the man, suddenly, as by the effect of unforeseen moral support. The miserable wretch! . . . “

* * * * *

“ — You understand,” Marlow interrupted the current of his narrative, “that in order to be consecutive in my relation of this affair I am telling you at once the details which I heard from Mrs. Fyne later in the day, as well as what little Fyne imparted to me with his usual solemnity during that morning call. As you may easily guess the Fynes, in their apartments, had read the news at the same time, and, as a matter of fact, in the same august and highly moral newspaper, as the governess in the luxurious mansion a few doors down on the opposite side of the street. But they read them with different feelings. They were thunderstruck. Fyne had to explain the full purport of the intelligence to Mrs. Fyne whose first cry was that of relief. Then that poor child would be safe from these designing, horrid people. Mrs. Fyne did not know what it might mean to be suddenly reduced from riches to absolute penury. Fyne with his masculine imagination was less inclined to rejoice extravagantly at the girl’s escape from the moral dangers which had been menacing her defenceless existence. It was a confoundedly big price to pay. What an unfortunate little thing she was! “We might be able to do something to comfort that poor child at any rate for the time she is here,” said Mrs. Fyne. She felt under a sort of moral obligation not to be indifferent. But no comfort for anyone could be got by rushing out into the street at this early hour; and so, following the advice of Fyne not to act hastily, they both sat down at the window and stared feelingly at the great house, awful to their eyes in its stolid, prosperous, expensive respectability with ruin absolutely standing at the door.

By that time, or very soon after, all Brighton had the information and formed a more or less just appreciation of its gravity. The butler in Miss de Barral’s big house had seen the news, perhaps earlier than anybody within a mile of the Parade, in the course of his morning duties of which one was to dry the freshly delivered paper before the fire — an occasion to glance at it which no intelligent man could have neglected. He communicated to the rest of the household his vaguely forcible impression that something had gone d — -bly wrong with the affairs of “her father in London.”

This brought an atmosphere of constraint through the house, which Flora de Barral coming down somewhat later than usual could not help noticing in her own way. Everybody seemed to stare so stupidly somehow; she feared a dull day.

In the dining-room the governess in her place, a newspaper half-concealed under the cloth on her lap, after a few words exchanged with lips that seemed hardly to move, remaining motionless, her eyes fixed before her in an enduring silence; and presently Charley coming in to whom she did not even give a glance. He hardly said good morning, though he had a half-hearted try to smile at the girl, and sitting opposite her with his eyes on his plate and slight quivers passing along the line of his clean-shaven jaw, he too had nothing to say. It was dull, horribly dull to begin one’s day like this; but she knew what it was. These never-ending family affairs! It was not for the first time that she had suffered from their depressing after-effects on these two. It was a shame that the delightful Charley should be made dull by these stupid talks, and it was perfectly stupid of him to let himself be upset like this by his aunt.

When after a period of still, as if calculating, immobility, her governess got up abruptly and went out with the paper in her hand, almost immediately afterwards followed by Charley who left his breakfast half eaten, the girl was positively relieved. They would have it out that morning whatever it was, and be themselves again in the afternoon. At least Charley would be. To the moods of her governess she did not attach so much importance.

For the first time that morning the Fynes saw the front door of the awful house open and the objectionable young man issue forth, his rascality visible to their prejudiced eyes in his very bowler hat and in the smart cut of his short fawn overcoat. He walked away rapidly like a man hurrying to catch a train, glancing from side to side as though he were carrying something off. Could he be departing for good? Undoubtedly, undoubtedly! But Mrs. Fyne’s fervent “thank goodness” turned out to be a bit, as the Americans — some Americans — say “previous.” In a very short time the odious fellow appeared again, strolling, absolutely strolling back, his hat now tilted a little on one side, with an air of leisure and satisfaction. Mrs. Fyne groaned not only in the spirit, at this sight, but in the flesh, audibly; and asked her husband what it might mean. Fyne naturally couldn’t say. Mrs. Fyne believed that there was something horrid in progress and meantime the object of her detestation had gone up the steps and had knocked at the door which at once opened to admit him.

He had been only as far as the bank.

His reason for leaving his breakfast unfinished to run after Miss de Barral’s governess, was to speak to her in reference to that very errand possessing the utmost possible importance in his eyes. He shrugged his shoulders at the nervousness of her eyes and hands, at the half-strangled whisper “I had to go out. I could hardly contain myself.” That was her affair. He was, with a young man’s squeamishness, rather sick of her ferocity. He did not understand it. Men do not accumulate hate against each other in tiny amounts, treasuring every pinch carefully till it grows at last into a monstrous and explosive hoard. He had run out after her to remind her of the balance at the bank. What about lifting that money without wasting any more time? She had promised him to leave nothing behind.

An account opened in her name for the expenses of the establishment in Brighton, had been fed by de Barral with deferential lavishness. The governess crossed the wide hall into a little room at the side where she sat down to write the cheque, which he hastened out to go and cash as if it were stolen or a forgery. As observed by the Fynes, his uneasy appearance on leaving the house arose from the fact that his first trouble having been caused by a cheque of doubtful authenticity, the possession of a document of the sort made him unreasonably uncomfortable till this one was safely cashed. And after all, you know it was stealing of an indirect sort; for the money was de Barral’s money if the account was in the name of the accomplished lady. At any rate the cheque was cashed. On getting hold of the notes and gold he recovered his jaunty bearing, it being well known that with certain natures the presence of money (even stolen) in the pocket, acts as a tonic, or at least as a stimulant. He cocked his hat a little on one side as though he had had a drink or two — which indeed he might have had in reality, to celebrate the occasion.

The governess had been waiting for his return in the hall, disregarding the side-glances of the butler as he went in and out of the dining-room clearing away the breakfast things. It was she, herself, who had opened the door so promptly. “It’s all right,” he said touching his breast-pocket; and she did not dare, the miserable wretch without illusions, she did not dare ask him to hand it over. They looked at each other in silence. He nodded significantly: “Where is she now?” and she whispered “Gone into the drawing-room. Want to see her again?” with an archly black look which he acknowledged by a muttered, surly: “I am damned if I do. Well, as you want to bolt like this, why don’t we go now?”

She set her lips with cruel obstinacy and shook her head. She had her idea, her completed plan. At that moment the Fynes, still at the window and watching like a pair of private detectives, saw a man with a long grey beard and a jovial face go up the steps helping himself with a thick stick, and knock at the door. Who could he be?

He was one of Miss de Barral’s masters. She had lately taken up painting in water-colours, having read in a high-class woman’s weekly paper that a great many princesses of the European royal houses were cultivating that art. This was the water-colour morning; and the teacher, a veteran of many exhibitions, of a venerable and jovial aspect, had turned up with his usual punctuality. He was no great reader of morning papers, and even had he seen the news it is very likely he would not have understood its real purport. At any rate he turned up, as the governess expected him to do, and the Fynes saw him pass through the fateful door.

He bowed cordially to the lady in charge of Miss de Barral’s education, whom he saw in the hall engaged in conversation with a very good-looking but somewhat raffish young gentleman. She turned to him graciously: “Flora is already waiting for you in the drawing-room.”

The cultivation of the art said to be patronized by princesses was pursued in the drawing-room from considerations of the right kind of light. The governess preceded the master up the stairs and into the room where Miss de Barral was found arrayed in a holland pinafore (also of the right kind for the pursuit of the art) and smilingly expectant. The water-colour lesson enlivened by the jocular conversation of the kindly, humorous, old man was always great fun; and she felt she would be compensated for the tiresome beginning of the day.

Her governess generally was present at the lesson; but on this occasion she only sat down till the master and pupil had gone to work in earnest, and then as though she had suddenly remembered some order to give, rose quietly and went out of the room.

Once outside, the servants summoned by the passing maid without a bell being rung, and quick, quick, let all this luggage be taken down into the hall, and let one of you call a cab. She stood outside the drawing-room door on the landing, looking at each piece, trunk, leather cases, portmanteaus, being carried past her, her brows knitted and her aspect so sombre and absorbed that it took some little time for the butler to muster courage enough to speak to her. But he reflected that he was a free-born Briton and had his rights. He spoke straight to the point but in the usual respectful manner.

“Beg you pardon, ma’am — but are you going away for good?”

He was startled by her tone. Its unexpected, unlady-like harshness fell on his trained ear with the disagreeable effect of a false note. “Yes. I am going away. And the best thing for all of you is to go away too, as soon as you like. You can go now, to-day, this moment. You had your wages paid you only last week. The longer you stay the greater your loss. But I have nothing to do with it now. You are the servants of Mr. de Barral — you know.”

The butler was astounded by the manner of this advice, and as his eyes wandered to the drawing-room door the governess extended her arm as if to bar the way. “Nobody goes in there.” And that was said still in another tone, such a tone that all trace of the trained respectfulness vanished from the butler’s bearing. He stared at her with a frank wondering gaze. “Not till I am gone,” she added, and there was such an expression on her face that the man was daunted by the mystery of it. He shrugged his shoulders slightly and without another word went down the stairs on his way to the basement, brushing in the hall past Mr. Charles who hat on head and both hands rammed deep into his overcoat pockets paced up and down as though on sentry duty there.

The ladies’ maid was the only servant upstairs, hovering in the passage on the first floor, curious and as if fascinated by the woman who stood there guarding the door. Being beckoned closer imperiously and asked by the governess to bring out of the now empty rooms the hat and veil, the only objects besides the furniture still to be found there, she did so in silence but inwardly fluttered. And while waiting uneasily, with the veil, before that woman who, without moving a step away from the drawing-room door was pinning with careless haste her hat on her head, she heard within a sudden burst of laughter from Miss de Barral enjoying the fun of the water-colour lesson given her for the last time by the cheery old man.

Mr. and Mrs. Fyne ambushed at their window — a most incredible occupation for people of their kind — saw with renewed anxiety a cab come to the door, and watched some luggage being carried out and put on its roof. The butler appeared for a moment, then went in again. What did it mean? Was Flora going to be taken to her father; or were these people, that woman and her horrible nephew, about to carry her off somewhere? Fyne couldn’t tell. He doubted the last, Flora having now, he judged, no value, either positive or speculative. Though no great reader of character he did not credit the governess with humane intentions. He confessed to me naïvely that he was excited as if watching some action on the stage. Then the thought struck him that the girl might have had some money settled on her, be possessed of some means, of some little fortune of her own and therefore —

He imparted this theory to his wife who shared fully his consternation. “I can’t believe the child will go away without running in to say good-bye to us,” she murmured. “We must find out! I shall ask her.” But at that very moment the cab rolled away, empty inside, and the door of the house which had been standing slightly ajar till then was pushed to.

They remained silent staring at it till Mrs. Fyne whispered doubtfully “I really think I must go over.” Fyne didn’t answer for a while (his is a reflective mind, you know), and then as if Mrs. Fyne’s whispers had an occult power over that door it opened wide again and the white-bearded man issued, astonishingly active in his movements, using his stick almost like a leaping-pole to get down the steps; and hobbled away briskly along the pavement. Naturally the Fynes were too far off to make out the expression of his face. But it would not have helped them very much to a guess at the conditions inside the house. The expression was humorously puzzled — nothing more.

For, at the end of his lesson, seizing his trusty stick and coming out with his habitual vivacity, he very nearly cannoned just outside the drawing-room door into the back of Miss de Barral’s governess. He stopped himself in time and she turned round swiftly. It was embarrassing; he apologised; but her face was not startled; it was not aware of him; it wore a singular expression of resolution. A very singular expression which, as it were, detained him for a moment. In order to cover his embarrassment, he made some inane remark on the weather, upon which, instead of returning another inane remark according to the tacit rules of the game, she only gave him a smile of unfathomable meaning. Nothing could have been more singular. The good-looking young gentleman of questionable appearance took not the slightest notice of him in the hall. No servant was to be seen. He let himself out pulling the door to behind him with a crash as, in a manner, he was forced to do to get it shut at all.

When the echo of it had died away the woman on the landing leaned over the banister and called out bitterly to the man below “Don’t you want to come up and say good-bye.” He had an impatient movement of the shoulders and went on pacing to and fro as though he had not heard. But suddenly he checked himself, stood still for a moment, then with a gloomy face and without taking his hands out of his pockets ran smartly up the stairs. Already facing the door she turned her head for a whispered taunt: “Come! Confess you were dying to see her stupid little face once more,” — to which he disdained to answer.

Flora de Barral, still seated before the table at which she had been wording on her sketch, raised her head at the noise of the opening door. The invading manner of their entrance gave her the sense of something she had never seen before. She knew them well. She knew the woman better than she knew her father. There had been between them an intimacy of relation as great as it can possibly be without the final closeness of affection. The delightful Charley walked in, with his eyes fixed on the back of her governess whose raised veil hid her forehead like a brown band above the black line of the eyebrows. The girl was astounded and alarmed by the altogether unknown expression in the woman’s face. The stress of passion often discloses an aspect of the personality completely ignored till then by its closest intimates. There was something like an emanation of evil from her eyes and from the face of the other, who, exactly behind her and overtopping her by half a head, kept his eyelids lowered in a sinister fashion — which in the poor girl, reached, stirred, set free that faculty of unreasoning explosive terror lying locked up at the bottom of all human hearts and of the hearts of animals as well. With suddenly enlarged pupils and a movement as instinctive almost as the bounding of a startled fawn, she jumped up and found herself in the middle of the big room, exclaiming at those amazing and familiar strangers.

“What do you want?”

You will note that she cried: What do you want? Not: What has happened? She told Mrs. Fyne that she had received suddenly the feeling of being personally attacked. And that must have been very terrifying. The woman before her had been the wisdom, the authority, the protection of life, security embodied and visible and undisputed.

You may imagine then the force of the shock in the intuitive perception not merely of danger, for she did not know what was alarming her, but in the sense of the security being gone. And not only security. I don’t know how to explain it clearly. Look! Even a small child lives, plays and suffers in terms of its conception of its own existence. Imagine, if you can, a fact coming in suddenly with a force capable of shattering that very conception itself. It was only because of the girl being still so much of a child that she escaped mental destruction; that, in other words she got over it. Could one conceive of her more mature, while still as ignorant as she was, one must conclude that she would have become an idiot on the spot — long before the end of that experience. Luckily, people, whether mature or not mature (and who really is ever mature?) are for the most part quite incapable of understanding what is happening to them: a merciful provision of nature to preserve an average amount of sanity for working purposes in this world . . . “

“But we, my dear Marlow, have the inestimable advantage of understanding what is happening to others,” I struck in. “Or at least some of us seem to. Is that too a provision of nature? And what is it for? Is it that we may amuse ourselves gossiping about each other’s affairs? You for instance seem — ”

“I don’t know what I seem,” Marlow silenced me, “and surely life must be amused somehow. It would be still a very respectable provision if it were only for that end. But from that same provision of understanding, there springs in us compassion, charity, indignation, the sense of solidarity; and in minds of any largeness an inclination to that indulgence which is next door to affection. I don’t mean to say that I am inclined to an indulgent view of the precious couple which broke in upon an unsuspecting girl. They came marching in (it’s the very expression she used later on to Mrs. Fyne) but at her cry they stopped. It must have been startling enough to them. It was like having the mask torn off when you don’t expect it. The man stopped for good; he didn’t offer to move a step further. But, though the governess had come in there for the very purpose of taking the mask off for the first time in her life, she seemed to look upon the frightened cry as a fresh provocation. “What are you screaming for, you little fool?” she said advancing alone close to the girl who was affected exactly as if she had seen Medusa’s head with serpentine locks set mysteriously on the shoulders of that familiar person, in that brown dress, under that hat she knew so well. It made her lose all her hold on reality. She told Mrs. Fyne: “I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t even know that I was frightened. If she had told me it was a joke I would have laughed. If she had told me to put on my hat and go out with her I would have gone to put on my hat and gone out with her and never said a single word; I should have been convinced I had been mad for a minute or so, and I would have worried myself to death rather than breathe a hint of it to her or anyone. But the wretch put her face close to mine and I could not move. Directly I had looked into her eyes I felt grown on to the carpet.”

It was years afterwards that she used to talk like this to Mrs. Fyne — and to Mrs. Fyne alone. Nobody else ever heard the story from her lips. But it was never forgotten. It was always felt; it remained like a mark on her soul, a sort of mystic wound, to be contemplated, to be meditated over. And she said further to Mrs. Fyne, in the course of many confidences provoked by that contemplation, that, as long as that woman called her names, it was almost soothing, it was in a manner reassuring. Her imagination had, like her body, gone off in a wild bound to meet the unknown; and then to hear after all something which more in its tone than in its substance was mere venomous abuse, had steadied the inward flutter of all her being.

“She called me a little fool more times than I can remember. I! A fool! Why, Mrs. Fyne! I do assure you I had never yet thought at all; never of anything in the world, till then. I just went on living. And one can’t be a fool without one has at least tried to think. But what had I ever to think about?”

“And no doubt,” commented Marlow, “her life had been a mere life of sensations — the response to which can neither be foolish nor wise. It can only be temperamental; and I believe that she was of a generally happy disposition, a child of the average kind. Even when she was asked violently whether she imagined that there was anything in her, apart from her money, to induce any intelligent person to take any sort of interest in her existence, she only caught her breath in one dry sob and said nothing, made no other sound, made no movement. When she was viciously assured that she was in heart, mind, manner and appearance, an utterly common and insipid creature, she remained still, without indignation, without anger. She stood, a frail and passive vessel into which the other went on pouring all the accumulated dislike for all her pupils, her scorn of all her employers (the ducal one included), the accumulated resentment, the infinite hatred of all these unrelieved years of — I won’t say hypocrisy. The practice of perfect hypocrisy is a relief in itself, a secret triumph of the vilest sort, no doubt, but still a way of getting even with the common morality from which some of us appear to suffer so much. No! I will say the years, the passionate, bitter years, of restraint, the iron, admirably mannered restraint at every moment, in a never-failing perfect correctness of speech, glances, movements, smiles, gestures, establishing for her a high reputation, an impressive record of success in her sphere. It had been like living half strangled for years.

And all this torture for nothing, in the end! What looked at last like a possible prize (oh, without illusions! but still a prize) broken in her hands, fallen in the dust, the bitter dust, of disappointment, she revelled in the miserable revenge — pretty safe too — only regretting the unworthiness of the girlish figure which stood for so much she had longed to be able to spit venom at, if only once, in perfect liberty. The presence of the young man at her back increased both her satisfaction and her rage. But the very violence of the attack seemed to defeat its end by rendering the representative victim as it were insensible. The cause of this outrage naturally escaping the girl’s imagination her attitude was in effect that of dense, hopeless stupidity. And it is a fact that the worst shocks of life are often received without outcries, without gestures, without a flow of tears and the convulsions of sobbing. The insatiable governess missed these signs exceedingly. This pitiful stolidity was only a fresh provocation. Yet the poor girl was deadly pale.

“I was cold,” she used to explain to Mrs. Fyne. “I had had time to get terrified. She had pushed her face so near mine and her teeth looked as though she wanted to bite me. Her eyes seemed to have become quite dry, hard and small in a lot of horrible wrinkles. I was too afraid of her to shudder, too afraid of her to put my fingers to my ears. I didn’t know what I expected her to call me next, but when she told me I was no better than a beggar — that there would be no more masters, no more servants, no more horses for me — I said to myself: Is that all? I should have laughed if I hadn’t been too afraid of her to make the least little sound.”

It seemed that poor Flora had to know all the possible phases of that sort of anguish, beginning with instinctive panic, through the bewildered stage, the frozen stage and the stage of blanched apprehension, down to the instinctive prudence of extreme terror — the stillness of the mouse. But when she heard herself called the child of a cheat and a swindler, the very monstrous unexpectedness of this caused in her a revulsion towards letting herself go. She screamed out all at once “You mustn’t speak like this of Papa!”

The effort of it uprooted her from that spot where her little feet seemed dug deep into the thick luxurious carpet, and she retreated backwards to a distant part of the room, hearing herself repeat “You mustn’t, you mustn’t” as if it were somebody else screaming. She came to a chair and flung herself into it. Thereupon the somebody else ceased screaming and she lolled, exhausted, sightless, in a silent room, as if indifferent to everything and without a single thought in her head.

The next few seconds seemed to last for ever so long; a black abyss of time separating what was past and gone from the reappearance of the governess and the reawakening of fear. And that woman was forcing the words through her set teeth: “You say I mustn’t, I mustn’t. All the world will be speaking of him like this to-morrow. They will say it, and they’ll print it. You shall hear it and you shall read it — and then you shall know whose daughter you are.”

Her face lighted up with an atrocious satisfaction. “He’s nothing but a thief,” she cried, “this father of yours. As to you I have never been deceived in you for a moment. I have been growing more and more sick of you for years. You are a vulgar, silly nonentity, and you shall go back to where you belong, whatever low place you have sprung from, and beg your bread — that is if anybody’s charity will have anything to do with you, which I doubt — ”

She would have gone on regardless of the enormous eyes, of the open mouth of the girl who sat up suddenly with the wild staring expression of being choked by invisible fingers on her throat, and yet horribly pale. The effect on her constitution was so profound, Mrs. Fyne told me, that she who as a child had a rather pretty delicate colouring, showed a white bloodless face for a couple of years afterwards, and remained always liable at the slightest emotion to an extraordinary ghost-like whiteness. The end came in the abomination of desolation of the poor child’s miserable cry for help: “Charley! Charley!” coming from her throat in hidden gasping efforts. Her enlarged eyes had discovered him where he stood motionless and dumb.

He started from his immobility, a hand withdrawn brusquely from the pocket of his overcoat, strode up to the woman, seized her by the arm from behind, saying in a rough commanding tone: “Come away, Eliza.” In an instant the child saw them close together and remote, near the door, gone through the door, which she neither heard nor saw being opened or shut. But it was shut. Oh yes, it was shut. Her slow unseeing glance wandered all over the room. For some time longer she remained leaning forward, collecting her strength, doubting if she would be able to stand. She stood up at last. Everything about her spun round in an oppressive silence. She remembered perfectly — as she told Mrs. Fyne — that clinging to the arm of the chair she called out twice “Papa! Papa!” At the thought that he was far away in London everything about her became quite still. Then, frightened suddenly by the solitude of that empty room, she rushed out of it blindly.

* * * * *

With that fatal diffidence in well doing, inherent in the present condition of humanity, the Fynes continued to watch at their window. “It’s always so difficult to know what to do for the best,” Fyne assured me. It is. Good intentions stand in their own way so much. Whereas if you want to do harm to anyone you needn’t hesitate. You have only to go on. No one will reproach you with your mistakes or call you a confounded, clumsy meddler. The Fynes watched the door, the closed street door inimical somehow to their benevolent thoughts, the face of the house cruelly impenetrable. It was just as on any other day. The unchanged daily aspect of inanimate things is so impressive that Fyne went back into the room for a moment, picked up the paper again, and ran his eyes over the item of news. No doubt of it. It looked very bad. He came back to the window and Mrs. Fyne. Tired out as she was she sat there resolute and ready for responsibility. But she had no suggestion to offer. People do fear a rebuff wonderfully, and all her audacity was in her thoughts. She shrank from the incomparably insolent manner of the governess. Fyne stood by her side, as in those old-fashioned photographs of married couples where you see a husband with his hand on the back of his wife’s chair. And they were about as efficient as an old photograph, and as still, till Mrs. Fyne started slightly. The street door had swung open, and, bursting out, appeared the young man, his hat (Mrs. Fyne observed) tilted forward over his eyes. After him the governess slipped through, turning round at once to shut the door behind her with care. Meantime the man went down the white steps and strode along the pavement, his hands rammed deep into the pockets of his fawn overcoat. The woman, that woman of composed movements, of deliberate superior manner, took a little run to catch up with him, and directly she had caught up with him tried to introduce her hand under his arm. Mrs. Fyne saw the brusque half turn of the fellow’s body as one avoids an importunate contact, defeating her attempt rudely. She did not try again but kept pace with his stride, and Mrs. Fyne watched them, walking independently, turn the corner of the street side by side, disappear for ever.

The Fynes looked at each other eloquently, doubtfully: What do you think of this? Then with common accord turned their eyes back to the street door, closed, massive, dark; the great, clear-brass knocker shining in a quiet slant of sunshine cut by a diagonal line of heavy shade filling the further end of the street. Could the girl be already gone? Sent away to her father? Had she any relations? Nobody but de Barral himself ever came to see her, Mrs. Fyne remembered; and she had the instantaneous, profound, maternal perception of the child’s loneliness — and a girl too! It was irresistible. And, besides, the departure of the governess was not without its encouraging influence. “I am going over at once to find out,” she declared resolutely but still staring across the street. Her intention was arrested by the sight of that awful, sombrely glistening door, swinging back suddenly on the yawning darkness of the hall, out of which literally flew out, right out on the pavement, almost without touching the white steps, a little figure swathed in a holland pinafore up to the chin, its hair streaming back from its head, darting past a lamp-post, past the red pillar-box . . . “Here,” cried Mrs. Fyne; “she’s coming here! Run, John! Run!”

Fyne bounded out of the room. This is his own word. Bounded! He assured me with intensified solemnity that he bounded; and the sight of the short and muscular Fyne bounding gravely about the circumscribed passages and staircases of a small, very high class, private hotel, would have been worth any amount of money to a man greedy of memorable impressions. But as I looked at him, the desire of laughter at my very lips, I asked myself: how many men could be found ready to compromise their cherished gravity for the sake of the unimportant child of a ruined financier with an ugly, black cloud already wreathing his head. I didn’t laugh at little Fyne. I encouraged him: “You did! — very good . . . Well?”

His main thought was to save the child from some unpleasant interference. There was a porter downstairs, page boys; some people going away with their trunks in the passage; a railway omnibus at the door, white-breasted waiters dodging about the entrance.

He was in time. He was at the door before she reached it in her blind course. She did not recognize him; perhaps she did not see him. He caught her by the arm as she ran past and, very sensibly, without trying to check her, simply darted in with her and up the stairs, causing no end of consternation amongst the people in his way. They scattered. What might have been their thoughts at the spectacle of a shameless middle-aged man abducting headlong into the upper regions of a respectable hotel a terrified young girl obviously under age, I don’t know. And Fyne (he told me so) did not care for what people might think. All he wanted was to reach his wife before the girl collapsed. For a time she ran with him but at the last flight of stairs he had to seize and half drag, half carry her to his wife. Mrs. Fyne waited at the door with her quite unmoved physiognomy and her readiness to confront any sort of responsibility, which already characterized her, long before she became a ruthless theorist. Relieved, his mission accomplished, Fyne closed hastily the door of the sitting-room.

But before long both Fynes became frightened. After a period of immobility in the arms of Mrs. Fyne, the girl, who had not said a word, tore herself out from that slightly rigid embrace. She struggled dumbly between them, they did not know why, soundless and ghastly, till she sank exhausted on a couch. Luckily the children were out with the two nurses. The hotel housemaid helped Mrs. Fyne to put Flora de Barral to bed. She was as if gone speechless and insane. She lay on her back, her face white like a piece of paper, her dark eyes staring at the ceiling, her awful immobility broken by sudden shivering fits with a loud chattering of teeth in the shadowy silence of the room, the blinds pulled down, Mrs. Fyne sitting by patiently, her arms folded, yet inwardly moved by the riddle of that distress of which she could not guess the word, and saying to herself: “That child is too emotional — much too emotional to be ever really sound!” As if anyone not made of stone could be perfectly sound in this world. And then how sound? In what sense — to resist what? Force or corruption? And even in the best armour of steel there are joints a treacherous stroke can always find if chance gives the opportunity.

General considerations never had the power to trouble Mrs. Fyne much. The girl not being in a state to be questioned she waited by the bedside. Fyne had crossed over to the house, his scruples overcome by his anxiety to discover what really had happened. He did not have to lift the knocker; the door stood open on the inside gloom of the hall; he walked into it and saw no one about, the servants having assembled for a fatuous consultation in the basement. Fyne’s uplifted bass voice startled them down there, the butler coming up, staring and in his shirt sleeves, very suspicious at first, and then, on Fyne’s explanation that he was the husband of a lady who had called several times at the house — Miss de Barral’s mother’s friend — becoming humanely concerned and communicative, in a man to man tone, but preserving his trained high-class servant’s voice: “Oh bless you, sir, no! She does not mean to come back. She told me so herself” — he assured Fyne with a faint shade of contempt creeping into his tone.

As regards their young lady nobody downstairs had any idea that she had run out of the house. He dared say they all would have been willing to do their very best for her, for the time being; but since she was now with her mother’s friends . . .

He fidgeted. He murmured that all this was very unexpected. He wanted to know what he had better do with letters or telegrams which might arrive in the course of the day.

“Letters addressed to Miss de Barral, you had better bring over to my hotel over there,” said Fyne beginning to feel extremely worried about the future. The man said “Yes, sir,” adding, “and if a letter comes addressed to Mrs. . . . “

Fyne stopped him by a gesture. “I don’t know . . . Anything you like.”

“Very well, sir.”

The butler did not shut the street door after Fyne, but remained on the doorstep for a while, looking up and down the street in the spirit of independent expectation like a man who is again his own master. Mrs. Fyne hearing her husband return came out of the room where the girl was lying in bed. “No change,” she whispered; and Fyne could only make a hopeless sign of ignorance as to what all this meant and how it would end.

He feared future complications — naturally; a man of limited means, in a public position, his time not his own. Yes. He owned to me in the parlour of my farmhouse that he had been very much concerned then at the possible consequences. But as he was making this artless confession I said to myself that, whatever consequences and complications he might have imagined, the complication from which he was suffering now could never, never have presented itself to his mind. Slow but sure (for I conceive that the Book of Destiny has been written up from the beginning to the last page) it had been coming for something like six years — and now it had come. The complication was there! I looked at his unshaken solemnity with the amused pity we give the victim of a funny if somewhat ill-natured practical joke.

“Oh hang it,” he exclaimed — in no logical connection with what he had been relating to me. Nevertheless the exclamation was intelligible enough.

However at first there were, he admitted, no untoward complications, no embarrassing consequences. To a telegram in guarded terms dispatched to de Barral no answer was received for more than twenty-four hours. This certainly caused the Fynes some anxiety. When the answer arrived late on the evening of next day it was in the shape of an elderly man. An unexpected sort of man. Fyne explained to me with precision that he evidently belonged to what is most respectable in the lower middle classes. He was calm and slow in his speech. He was wearing a frock-coat, had grey whiskers meeting under his chin, and declared on entering that Mr. de Barral was his cousin. He hastened to add that he had not seen his cousin for many years, while he looked upon Fyne (who received him alone) with so much distrust that Fyne felt hurt (the person actually refusing at first the chair offered to him) and retorted tartly that he, for his part, had never seen Mr. de Barral, in his life, and that, since the visitor did not want to sit down, he, Fyne, begged him to state his business as shortly as possible. The man in black sat down then with a faint superior smile.

He had come for the girl. His cousin had asked him in a note delivered by a messenger to go to Brighton at once and take “his girl” over from a gentleman named Fyne and give her house-room for a time in his family. And there he was. His business had not allowed him to come sooner. His business was the manufacture on a large scale of cardboard boxes. He had two grown-up girls of his own. He had consulted his wife and so that was all right. The girl would get a welcome in his home. His home most likely was not what she had been used to but, etc. etc.

All the time Fyne felt subtly in that man’s manner a derisive disapproval of everything that was not lower middle class, a profound respect for money, a mean sort of contempt for speculators that fail, and a conceited satisfaction with his own respectable vulgarity.

With Mrs. Fyne the manner of the obscure cousin of de Barral was but little less offensive. He looked at her rather slyly but her cold, decided demeanour impressed him. Mrs. Fyne on her side was simply appalled by the personage, but did not show it outwardly. Not even when the man remarked with false simplicity that Florrie — her name was Florrie wasn’t it? would probably miss at first all her grand friends. And when he was informed that the girl was in bed, not feeling well at all he showed an unsympathetic alarm. She wasn’t an invalid was she? No. What was the matter with her then?

An extreme distaste for that respectable member of society was depicted in Fyne’s face even as he was telling me of him after all these years. He was a specimen of precisely the class of which people like the Fynes have the least experience; and I imagine he jarred on them painfully. He possessed all the civic virtues in their very meanest form, and the finishing touch was given by a low sort of consciousness he manifested of possessing them. His industry was exemplary. He wished to catch the earliest possible train next morning. It seems that for seven and twenty years he had never missed being seated on his office-stool at the factory punctually at ten o’clock every day. He listened to Mrs. Fyne’s objections with undisguised impatience. Why couldn’t Florrie get up and have her breakfast at eight like other people? In his house the breakfast was at eight sharp. Mrs. Fyne’s polite stoicism overcame him at last. He had come down at a very great personal inconvenience, he assured her with displeasure, but he gave up the early train.

The good Fynes didn’t dare to look at each other before this unforeseen but perfectly authorized guardian, the same thought springing up in their minds: Poor girl! Poor girl! If the women of the family were like this too! . . . And of course they would be. Poor girl! But what could they have done even if they had been prepared to raise objections. The person in the frock-coat had the father’s note; he had shown it to Fyne. Just a request to take care of the girl — as her nearest relative — without any explanation or a single allusion to the financial catastrophe, its tone strangely detached and in its very silence on the point giving occasion to think that the writer was not uneasy as to the child’s future. Probably it was that very idea which had set the cousin so readily in motion. Men had come before out of commercial crashes with estates in the country and a comfortable income, if not for themselves then for their wives. And if a wife could be made comfortable by a little dexterous management then why not a daughter? Yes. This possibility might have been discussed in the person’s household and judged worth acting upon.

The man actually hinted broadly that such was his belief and in face of Fyne’s guarded replies gave him to understand that he was not the dupe of such reticences. Obviously he looked upon the Fynes as being disappointed because the girl was taken away from them. They, by a diplomatic sacrifice in the interests of poor Flora, had asked the man to dinner. He accepted ungraciously, remarking that he was not used to late hours. He had generally a bit of supper about half-past eight or nine. However . . .

He gazed contemptuously round the prettily decorated dining-room. He wrinkled his nose in a puzzled way at the dishes offered to him by the waiter but refused none, devouring the food with a great appetite and drinking (“swilling” Fyne called it) gallons of ginger beer, which was procured for him (in stone bottles) at his request. The difficulty of keeping up a conversation with that being exhausted Mrs. Fyne herself, who had come to the table armed with adamantine resolution. The only memorable thing he said was when, in a pause of gorging himself “with these French dishes” he deliberately let his eyes roam over the little tables occupied by parties of diners, and remarked that his wife did for a moment think of coming down with him, but that he was glad she didn’t do so. “She wouldn’t have been at all happy seeing all this alcohol about. Not at all happy,” he declared weightily.

“You must have had a charming evening,” I said to Fyne, “if I may judge from the way you have kept the memory green.”

“Delightful,” he growled with, positively, a flash of anger at the recollection, but lapsed back into his solemnity at once. After we had been silent for a while I asked whether the man took away the girl next day.

Fyne said that he did; in the afternoon, in a fly, with a few clothes the maid had got together and brought across from the big house. He only saw Flora again ten minutes before they left for the railway station, in the Fynes’ sitting-room at the hotel. It was a most painful ten minutes for the Fynes. The respectable citizen addressed Miss de Barral as “Florrie” and “my dear,” remarking to her that she was not very big “there’s not much of you my dear” in a familiarly disparaging tone. Then turning to Mrs. Fyne, and quite loud “She’s very white in the face. Why’s that?” To this Mrs. Fyne made no reply. She had put the girl’s hair up that morning with her own hands. It changed her very much, observed Fyne. He, naturally, played a subordinate, merely approving part. All he could do for Miss de Barral personally was to go downstairs and put her into the fly himself, while Miss de Barral’s nearest relation, having been shouldered out of the way, stood by, with an umbrella and a little black bag, watching this proceeding with grim amusement, as it seemed. It was difficult to guess what the girl thought or what she felt. She no longer looked a child. She whispered to Fyne a faint “Thank you,” from the fly, and he said to her in very distinct tones and while still holding her hand: “Pray don’t forget to write fully to my wife in a day or two, Miss de Barral.” Then Fyne stepped back and the cousin climbed into the fly muttering quite audibly: “I don’t think you’ll be troubled much with her in the future;” without however looking at Fyne on whom he did not even bestow a nod. The fly drove away.

Chapter 5 — the Tea-party

“Amiable personality,” I observed seeing Fyne on the point of falling into a brown study. But I could not help adding with meaning: “He hadn’t the gift of prophecy though.”

Fyne got up suddenly with a muttered “No, evidently not.” He was gloomy, hesitating. I supposed that he would not wish to play chess that afternoon. This would dispense me from leaving my rooms on a day much too fine to be wasted in walking exercise. And I was disappointed when picking up his cap he intimated to me his hope of seeing me at the cottage about four o’clock — as usual.

“It wouldn’t be as usual.” I put a particular stress on that remark. He admitted, after a short reflection, that it would not be. No. Not as usual. In fact it was his wife who hoped, rather, for my presence. She had formed a very favourable opinion of my practical sagacity.

This was the first I ever heard of it. I had never suspected that Mrs. Fyne had taken the trouble to distinguish in me the signs of sagacity or folly. The few words we had exchanged last night in the excitement — or the bother — of the girl’s disappearance, were the first moderately significant words which had ever passed between us. I had felt myself always to be in Mrs. Fyne’s view her husband’s chess-player and nothing else — a convenience — almost an implement.

“I am highly flattered,” I said. “I have always heard that there are no limits to feminine intuition; and now I am half inclined to believe it is so. But still I fail to see in what way my sagacity, practical or otherwise, can be of any service to Mrs. Fyne. One man’s sagacity is very much like any other man’s sagacity. And with you at hand — ”

Fyne, manifestly not attending to what I was saying, directed straight at me his worried solemn eyes and struck in:

“Yes, yes. Very likely. But you will come — won’t you?”

I had made up my mind that no Fyne of either sex would make me walk three miles (there and back to their cottage) on this fine day. If the Fynes had been an average sociable couple one knows only because leisure must be got through somehow, I would have made short work of that special invitation. But they were not that. Their undeniable humanity had to be acknowledged. At the same time I wanted to have my own way. So I proposed that I should be allowed the pleasure of offering them a cup of tea at my rooms.

A short reflective pause — and Fyne accepted eagerly in his own and his wife’s name. A moment after I heard the click of the gate-latch and then in an ecstasy of barking from his demonstrative dog his serious head went past my window on the other side of the hedge, its troubled gaze fixed forward, and the mind inside obviously employed in earnest speculation of an intricate nature. One at least of his wife’s girl-friends had become more than a mere shadow for him. I surmised however that it was not of the girl-friend but of his wife that Fyne was thinking. He was an excellent husband.

I prepared myself for the afternoon’s hospitalities, calling in the farmer’s wife and reviewing with her the resources of the house and the village. She was a helpful woman. But the resources of my sagacity I did not review. Except in the gross material sense of the afternoon tea I made no preparations for Mrs. Fyne.

It was impossible for me to make any such preparations. I could not tell what sort of sustenance she would look for from my sagacity. And as to taking stock of the wares of my mind no one I imagine is anxious to do that sort of thing if it can be avoided. A vaguely grandiose state of mental self-confidence is much too agreeable to be disturbed recklessly by such a delicate investigation. Perhaps if I had had a helpful woman at my elbow, a dear, flattering acute, devoted woman . . . There are in life moments when one positively regrets not being married. No! I don’t exaggerate. I have said — moments, not years or even days. Moments. The farmer’s wife obviously could not be asked to assist. She could not have been expected to possess the necessary insight and I doubt whether she would have known how to be flattering enough. She was being helpful in her own way, with an extraordinary black bonnet on her head, a good mile off by that time, trying to discover in the village shops a piece of eatable cake. The pluck of women! The optimism of the dear creatures!

And she managed to find something which looked eatable. That’s all I know as I had no opportunity to observe the more intimate effects of that comestible. I myself never eat cake, and Mrs. Fyne, when she arrived punctually, brought with her no appetite for cake. She had no appetite for anything. But she had a thirst — the sign of deep, of tormenting emotion. Yes it was emotion, not the brilliant sunshine — more brilliant than warm as is the way of our discreet self-repressed, distinguished, insular sun, which would not turn a real lady scarlet — not on any account. Mrs. Fyne looked even cool. She wore a white skirt and coat; a white hat with a large brim reposed on her smoothly arranged hair. The coat was cut something like an army mess-jacket and the style suited her. I dare say there are many youthful subalterns, and not the worst-looking too, who resemble Mrs. Fyne in the type of face, in the sunburnt complexion, down to that something alert in bearing. But not many would have had that aspect breathing a readiness to assume any responsibility under Heaven. This is the sort of courage which ripens late in life and of course Mrs. Fyne was of mature years for all her unwrinkled face.

She looked round the room, told me positively that I was very comfortable there; to which I assented, humbly, acknowledging my undeserved good fortune.

“Why undeserved?” she wanted to know.

“I engaged these rooms by letter without asking any questions. It might have been an abominable hole,” I explained to her. “I always do things like that. I don’t like to be bothered. This is no great proof of sagacity — is it? Sagacious people I believe like to exercise that faculty. I have heard that they can’t even help showing it in the veriest trifles. It must be very delightful. But I know nothing of it. I think that I have no sagacity — no practical sagacity.”

Fyne made an inarticulate bass murmur of protest. I asked after the children whom I had not seen yet since my return from town. They had been very well. They were always well. Both Fyne and Mrs. Fyne spoke of the rude health of their children as if it were a result of moral excellence; in a peculiar tone which seemed to imply some contempt for people whose children were liable to be unwell at times. One almost felt inclined to apologize for the inquiry. And this annoyed me; unreasonably, I admit, because the assumption of superior merit is not a very exceptional weakness. Anxious to make myself disagreeable by way of retaliation I observed in accents of interested civility that the dear girls must have been wondering at the sudden disappearance of their mother’s young friend. Had they been putting any awkward questions about Miss Smith. Wasn’t it as Miss Smith that Miss de Barral had been introduced to me?

Mrs. Fyne, staring fixedly but also colouring deeper under her tan, told me that the children had never liked Flora very much. She hadn’t the high spirits which endear grown-ups to healthy children, Mrs. Fyne explained unflinchingly. Flora had been staying at the cottage several times before. Mrs. Fyne assured me that she often found it very difficult to have her in the house.

“But what else could we do?” she exclaimed.

That little cry of distress quite genuine in its inexpressiveness, altered my feeling towards Mrs. Fyne. It would have been so easy to have done nothing and to have thought no more about it. My liking for her began while she was trying to tell me of the night she spent by the girl’s bedside, the night before her departure with her unprepossessing relative. That Mrs. Fyne found means to comfort the child I doubt very much. She had not the genius for the task of undoing that which the hate of an infuriated woman had planned so well.

You will tell me perhaps that children’s impressions are not durable. That’s true enough. But here, child is only a manner of speaking. The girl was within a few days of her sixteenth birthday; she was old enough to be matured by the shock. The very effort she had to make in conveying the impression to Mrs. Fyne, in remembering the details, in finding adequate words — or any words at all — was in itself a terribly enlightening, an ageing process. She had talked a long time, uninterrupted by Mrs. Fyne, childlike enough in her wonder and pain, pausing now and then to interject the pitiful query: “It was cruel of her. Wasn’t it cruel, Mrs. Fyne?”

For Charley she found excuses. He at any rate had not said anything, while he had looked very gloomy and miserable. He couldn’t have taken part against his aunt — could he? But after all he did, when she called upon him, take “that cruel woman away.” He had dragged her out by the arm. She had seen that plainly. She remembered it. That was it! The woman was mad. “Oh! Mrs. Fyne, don’t tell me she wasn’t mad. If you had only seen her face . . . “

But Mrs. Fyne was unflinching in her idea that as much truth as could be told was due in the way of kindness to the girl, whose fate she feared would be to live exposed to the hardest realities of unprivileged existences. She explained to her that there were in the world evil-minded, selfish people. Unscrupulous people . . . These two persons had been after her father’s money. The best thing she could do was to forget all about them.

“After papa’s money? I don’t understand,” poor Flora de Barral had murmured, and lay still as if trying to think it out in the silence and shadows of the room where only a night-light was burning. Then she had a long shivering fit while holding tight the hand of Mrs. Fyne whose patient immobility by the bedside of that brutally murdered childhood did infinite honour to her humanity. That vigil must have been the more trying because I could see very well that at no time did she think the victim particularly charming or sympathetic. It was a manifestation of pure compassion, of compassion in itself, so to speak, not many women would have been capable of displaying with that unflinching steadiness. The shivering fit over, the girl’s next words in an outburst of sobs were, “Oh! Mrs. Fyne, am I really such a horrid thing as she has made me out to be?”

“No, no!” protested Mrs. Fyne. “It is your former governess who is horrid and odious. She is a vile woman. I cannot tell you that she was mad but I think she must have been beside herself with rage and full of evil thoughts. You must try not to think of these abominations, my dear child.”

They were not fit for anyone to think of much, Mrs. Fyne commented to me in a curt positive tone. All that had been very trying. The girl was like a creature struggling under a net.

“But how can I forget? she called my father a cheat and a swindler! Do tell me Mrs. Fyne that it isn’t true. It can’t be true. How can it be true?”

She sat up in bed with a sudden wild motion as if to jump out and flee away from the sound of the words which had just passed her own lips. Mrs. Fyne restrained her, soothed her, induced her at last to lay her head on her pillow again, assuring her all the time that nothing this woman had had the cruelty to say deserved to be taken to heart. The girl, exhausted, cried quietly for a time. It may be she had noticed something evasive in Mrs. Fyne’s assurances. After a while, without stirring, she whispered brokenly:

“That awful woman told me that all the world would call papa these awful names. Is it possible? Is it possible?”

Mrs. Fyne kept silent.

“Do say something to me, Mrs. Fyne,” the daughter of de Barral insisted in the same feeble whisper.

Again Mrs. Fyne assured me that it had been very trying. Terribly trying. “Yes, thanks, I will.” She leaned back in the chair with folded arms while I poured another cup of tea for her, and Fyne went out to pacify the dog which, tied up under the porch, had become suddenly very indignant at somebody having the audacity to walk along the lane. Mrs. Fyne stirred her tea for a long time, drank a little, put the cup down and said with that air of accepting all the consequences:

“Silence would have been unfair. I don’t think it would have been kind either. I told her that she must be prepared for the world passing a very severe judgment on her father . . . “

* * * * *

“Wasn’t it admirable,” cried Marlow interrupting his narrative. “Admirable!” And as I looked dubiously at this unexpected enthusiasm he started justifying it after his own manner.

“I say admirable because it was so characteristic. It was perfect. Nothing short of genius could have found better. And this was nature! As they say of an artist’s work: this was a perfect Fyne. Compassion — judiciousness — something correctly measured. None of your dishevelled sentiment. And right! You must confess that nothing could have been more right. I had a mind to shout “Brava! Brava!” but I did not do that. I took a piece of cake and went out to bribe the Fyne dog into some sort of self-control. His sharp comical yapping was unbearable, like stabs through one’s brain, and Fyne’s deeply modulated remonstrances abashed the vivacious animal no more than the deep, patient murmur of the sea abashes a nigger minstrel on a popular beach. Fyne was beginning to swear at him in low, sepulchral tones when I appeared. The dog became at once wildly demonstrative, half strangling himself in his collar, his eyes and tongue hanging out in the excess of his incomprehensible affection for me. This was before he caught sight of the cake in my hand. A series of vertical springs high up in the air followed, and then, when he got the cake, he instantly lost his interest in everything else.

Fyne was slightly vexed with me. As kind a master as any dog could wish to have, he yet did not approve of cake being given to dogs. The Fyne dog was supposed to lead a Spartan existence on a diet of repulsive biscuits with an occasional dry, hygienic, bone thrown in. Fyne looked down gloomily at the appeased animal, I too looked at that fool-dog; and (you know how one’s memory gets suddenly stimulated) I was reminded visually, with an almost painful distinctness, of the ghostly white face of the girl I saw last accompanied by that dog — deserted by that dog. I almost heard her distressed voice as if on the verge of resentful tears calling to the dog, the unsympathetic dog. Perhaps she had not the power of evoking sympathy, that personal gift of direct appeal to the feelings. I said to Fyne, mistrusting the supine attitude of the dog:

“Why don’t you let him come inside?”

Oh dear no! He couldn’t think of it! I might indeed have saved my breath, I knew it was one of the Fynes’ rules of life, part of their solemnity and responsibility, one of those things that were part of their unassertive but ever present superiority, that their dog must not be allowed in. It was most improper to intrude the dog into the houses of the people they were calling on — if it were only a careless bachelor in farmhouse lodgings and a personal friend of the dog. It was out of the question. But they would let him bark one’s sanity away outside one’s window. They were strangely consistent in their lack of imaginative sympathy. I didn’t insist but simply led the way back to the parlour, hoping that no wayfarer would happen along the lane for the next hour or so to disturb the dog’s composure.

Mrs. Fyne seated immovable before the table charged with plates, cups, jugs, a cold teapot, crumbs, and the general litter of the entertainment turned her head towards us.

“You see, Mr. Marlow,” she said in an unexpectedly confidential tone: “they are so utterly unsuited for each other.”

At the moment I did not know how to apply this remark. I thought at first of Fyne and the dog. Then I adjusted it to the matter in hand which was neither more nor less than an elopement. Yes, by Jove! It was something very much like an elopement — with certain unusual characteristics of its own which made it in a sense equivocal. With amused wonder I remembered that my sagacity was requisitioned in such a connection. How unexpected! But we never know what tests our gifts may be put to. Sagacity dictated caution first of all. I believe caution to be the first duty of sagacity. Fyne sat down as if preparing himself to witness a joust, I thought.

“Do you think so, Mrs. Fyne?” I said sagaciously. “Of course you are in a position . . . “ I was continuing with caution when she struck out vivaciously for immediate assent.

“Obviously! Clearly! You yourself must admit . . . “

“But, Mrs. Fyne,” I remonstrated, “you forget that I don’t know your brother.”

This argument which was not only sagacious but true, overwhelmingly true, unanswerably true, seemed to surprise her.

I wondered why. I did not know enough of her brother for the remotest guess at what he might be like. I had never set eyes on the man. I didn’t know him so completely that by contrast I seemed to have known Miss de Barral — whom I had seen twice (altogether about sixty minutes) and with whom I had exchanged about sixty words — from the cradle so to speak. And perhaps, I thought, looking down at Mrs. Fyne (I had remained standing) perhaps she thinks that this ought to be enough for a sagacious assent.

She kept silent; and I looking at her with polite expectation, went on addressing her mentally in a mood of familiar approval which would have astonished her had it been audible: You my dear at any rate are a sincere woman . . . “

“I call a woman sincere,” Marlow began again after giving me a cigar and lighting one himself, “I call a woman sincere when she volunteers a statement resembling remotely in form what she really would like to say, what she really thinks ought to be said if it were not for the necessity to spare the stupid sensitiveness of men. The women’s rougher, simpler, more upright judgment, embraces the whole truth, which their tact, their mistrust of masculine idealism, ever prevents them from speaking in its entirety. And their tact is unerring. We could not stand women speaking the truth. We could not bear it. It would cause infinite misery and bring about most awful disturbances in this rather mediocre, but still idealistic fool’s paradise in which each of us lives his own little life — the unit in the great sum of existence. And they know it. They are merciful. This generalization does not apply exactly to Mrs. Fyne’s outburst of sincerity in a matter in which neither my affections nor my vanity were engaged. That’s why, may be, she ventured so far. For a woman she chose to be as open as the day with me. There was not only the form but almost the whole substance of her thought in what she said. She believed she could risk it. She had reasoned somewhat in this way; there’s a man, possessing a certain amount of sagacity . . . “

Marlow paused with a whimsical look at me. The last few words he had spoken with the cigar in his teeth. He took it out now by an ample movement of his arm and blew a thin cloud.

“You smile? It would have been more kind to spare my blushes. But as a matter of fact I need not blush. This is not vanity; it is analysis. We’ll let sagacity stand. But we must also note what sagacity in this connection stands for. When you see this you shall see also that there was nothing in it to alarm my modesty. I don’t think Mrs. Fyne credited me with the possession of wisdom tempered by common sense. And had I had the wisdom of the Seven Sages of Antiquity, she would not have been moved to confidence or admiration. The secret scorn of women for the capacity to consider judiciously and to express profoundly a meditated conclusion is unbounded. They have no use for these lofty exercises which they look upon as a sort of purely masculine game — game meaning a respectable occupation devised to kill time in this man-arranged life which must be got through somehow. What women’s acuteness really respects are the inept “ideas” and the sheeplike impulses by which our actions and opinions are determined in matters of real importance. For if women are not rational they are indeed acute. Even Mrs. Fyne was acute. The good woman was making up to her husband’s chess-player simply because she had scented in him that small portion of ‘femininity,’ that drop of superior essence of which I am myself aware; which, I gratefully acknowledge, has saved me from one or two misadventures in my life either ridiculous or lamentable, I am not very certain which. It matters very little. Anyhow misadventures. Observe that I say ‘femininity,’ a privilege — not ‘feminism,’ an attitude. I am not a feminist. It was Fyne who on certain solemn grounds had adopted that mental attitude; but it was enough to glance at him sitting on one side, to see that he was purely masculine to his finger-tips, masculine solidly, densely, amusingly, — hopelessly.

I did glance at him. You don’t get your sagacity recognized by a man’s wife without feeling the propriety and even the need to glance at the man now and again. So I glanced at him. Very masculine. So much so that “hopelessly” was not the last word of it. He was helpless. He was bound and delivered by it. And if by the obscure promptings of my composite temperament I beheld him with malicious amusement, yet being in fact, by definition and especially from profound conviction, a man, I could not help sympathizing with him largely. Seeing him thus disarmed, so completely captive by the very nature of things I was moved to speak to him kindly.

“Well. And what do you think of it?”

“I don’t know. How’s one to tell? But I say that the thing is done now and there’s an end of it,” said the masculine creature as bluntly as his innate solemnity permitted.

Mrs. Fyne moved a little in her chair. I turned to her and remarked gently that this was a charge, a criticism, which was often made. Some people always ask: What could he see in her? Others wonder what she could have seen in him? Expressions of unsuitability.

She said with all the emphasis of her quietly folded arms:

“I know perfectly well what Flora has seen in my brother.”

I bowed my head to the gust but pursued my point.

“And then the marriage in most cases turns out no worse than the average, to say the least of it.”

Mrs. Fyne was disappointed by the optimistic turn of my sagacity. She rested her eyes on my face as though in doubt whether I had enough femininity in my composition to understand the case.

I waited for her to speak. She seemed to be asking herself; Is it after all, worth while to talk to that man? You understand how provoking this was. I looked in my mind for something appallingly stupid to say, with the object of distressing and teasing Mrs. Fyne. It is humiliating to confess a failure. One would think that a man of average intelligence could command stupidity at will. But it isn’t so. I suppose it’s a special gift or else the difficulty consists in being relevant. Discovering that I could find no really telling stupidity, I turned to the next best thing; a platitude. I advanced, in a common-sense tone, that, surely, in the matter of marriage a man had only himself to please.

Mrs. Fyne received this without the flutter of an eyelid. Fyne’s masculine breast, as might have been expected, was pierced by that old, regulation shaft. He grunted most feelingly. I turned to him with false simplicity. “Don’t you agree with me?”

“The very thing I’ve been telling my wife,” he exclaimed in his extra-manly bass. “We have been discussing — ”

A discussion in the Fyne ménage! How portentous! Perhaps the very first difference they had ever had: Mrs. Fyne unflinching and ready for any responsibility, Fyne solemn and shrinking — the children in bed upstairs; and outside the dark fields, the shadowy contours of the land on the starry background of the universe, with the crude light of the open window like a beacon for the truant who would never come back now; a truant no longer but a downright fugitive. Yet a fugitive carrying off spoils. It was the flight of a raider — or a traitor? This affair of the purloined brother, as I had named it to myself, had a very puzzling physiognomy. The girl must have been desperate, I thought, hearing the grave voice of Fyne well enough but catching the sense of his words not at all, except the very last words which were:

“Of course, it’s extremely distressing.”

I looked at him inquisitively. What was distressing him? The purloining of the son of the poet-tyrant by the daughter of the financier-convict. Or only, if I may say so, the wind of their flight disturbing the solemn placidity of the Fynes’ domestic atmosphere. My incertitude did not last long, for he added:

“Mrs. Fyne urges me to go to London at once.”

One could guess at, almost see, his profound distaste for the journey, his distress at a difference of feeling with his wife. With his serious view of the sublunary comedy Fyne suffered from not being able to agree solemnly with her sentiment as he was accustomed to do, in recognition of having had his way in one supreme instance; when he made her elope with him — the most momentous step imaginable in a young lady’s life. He had been really trying to acknowledge it by taking the rightness of her feeling for granted on every other occasion. It had become a sort of habit at last. And it is never pleasant to break a habit. The man was deeply troubled. I said: “Really! To go to London!”

He looked dumbly into my eyes. It was pathetic and funny. “And you of course feel it would be useless,” I pursued.

He evidently felt that, though he said nothing. He only went on blinking at me with a solemn and comical slowness. “Unless it be to carry there the family’s blessing,” I went on, indulging my chaffing humour steadily, in a rather sneaking fashion, for I dared not look at Mrs. Fyne, to my right. No sound or movement came from that direction. “You think very naturally that to match mere good, sound reasons, against the passionate conclusions of love is a waste of intellect bordering on the absurd.”

He looked surprised as if I had discovered something very clever. He, dear man, had thought of nothing at all.

He simply knew that he did not want to go to London on that mission. Mere masculine delicacy. In a moment he became enthusiastic.

“Yes! Yes! Exactly. A man in love . . . You hear, my dear? Here you have an independent opinion — ”

“Can anything be more hopeless,” I insisted to the fascinated little Fyne, “than to pit reason against love. I must confess however that in this case when I think of that poor girl’s sharp chin I wonder if . . . “

My levity was too much for Mrs. Fyne. Still leaning back in her chair she exclaimed:

“Mr. Marlow!”

* * * * *

As if mysteriously affected by her indignation the absurd Fyne dog began to bark in the porch. It might have been at a trespassing bumble-bee however. That animal was capable of any eccentricity. Fyne got up quickly and went out to him. I think he was glad to leave us alone to discuss that matter of his journey to London. A sort of anti-sentimental journey. He, too, apparently, had confidence in my sagacity. It was touching, this confidence. It was at any rate more genuine than the confidence his wife pretended to have in her husband’s chess-player, of three successive holidays. Confidence be hanged! Sagacity — indeed! She had simply marched in without a shadow of misgiving to make me back her up. But she had delivered herself into my hands . . . “

Interrupting his narrative Marlow addressed me in his tone between grim jest and grim earnest:

“Perhaps you didn’t know that my character is upon the whole rather vindictive.”

“No, I didn’t know,” I said with a grin. “That’s rather unusual for a sailor. They always seemed to me the least vindictive body of men in the world.”

“H’m! Simple souls,” Marlow muttered moodily. “Want of opportunity. The world leaves them alone for the most part. For myself it’s towards women that I feel vindictive mostly, in my small way. I admit that it is small. But then the occasions in themselves are not great. Mainly I resent that pretence of winding us round their dear little fingers, as of right. Not that the result ever amounts to much generally. There are so very few momentous opportunities. It is the assumption that each of us is a combination of a kid and an imbecile which I find provoking — in a small way; in a very small way. You needn’t stare as though I were breathing fire and smoke out of my nostrils. I am not a women-devouring monster. I am not even what is technically called “a brute.” I hope there’s enough of a kid and an imbecile in me to answer the requirements of some really good woman eventually — some day . . . Some day. Why do you gasp? You don’t suppose I should be afraid of getting married? That supposition would be offensive . . . “

“I wouldn’t dream of offending you,” I said.

“Very well. But meantime please remember that I was not married to Mrs. Fyne. That lady’s little finger was none of my legal property. I had not run off with it. It was Fyne who had done that thing. Let him be wound round as much as his backbone could stand — or even more, for all I cared. His rushing away from the discussion on the transparent pretence of quieting the dog confirmed my notion of there being a considerable strain on his elasticity. I confronted Mrs. Fyne resolved not to assist her in her eminently feminine occupation of thrusting a stick in the spokes of another woman’s wheel.

She tried to preserve her calm-eyed superiority. She was familiar and olympian, fenced in by the tea-table, that excellent symbol of domestic life in its lighter hour and its perfect security. In a few severely unadorned words she gave me to understand that she had ventured to hope for some really helpful suggestion from me. To this almost chiding declaration — because my vindictiveness seldom goes further than a bit of teasing — I said that I was really doing my best. And being a physiognomist . . . “

“Being what?” she interrupted me.

“A physiognomist,” I repeated raising my voice a little. “A physiognomist, Mrs. Fyne. And on the principles of that science a pointed little chin is a sufficient ground for interference. You want to interfere — do you not?”

Her eyes grew distinctly bigger. She had never been bantered before in her life. The late subtle poet’s method of making himself unpleasant was merely savage and abusive. Fyne had been always solemnly subservient. What other men she knew I cannot tell but I assume they must have been gentlemanly creatures. The girl-friends sat at her feet. How could she recognize my intention. She didn’t know what to make of my tone.

“Are you serious in what you say?” she asked slowly. And it was touching. It was as if a very young, confiding girl had spoken. I felt myself relenting.

“No. I am not, Mrs. Fyne,” I said. “I didn’t know I was expected to be serious as well as sagacious. No. That science is farcical and therefore I am not serious. It’s true that most sciences are farcical except those which teach us how to put things together.”

“The question is how to keep these two people apart,” she struck in. She had recovered. I admired the quickness of women’s wit. Mental agility is a rare perfection. And aren’t they agile! Aren’t they — just! And tenacious! When they once get hold you may uproot the tree but you won’t shake them off the branch. In fact the more you shake . . . But only look at the charm of contradictory perfections! No wonder men give in — generally. I won’t say I was actually charmed by Mrs. Fyne. I was not delighted with her. What affected me was not what she displayed but something which she could not conceal. And that was emotion — nothing less. The form of her declaration was dry, almost peremptory — but not its tone. Her voice faltered just the least bit, she smiled faintly; and as we were looking straight at each other I observed that her eyes were glistening in a peculiar manner. She was distressed. And indeed that Mrs. Fyne should have appealed to me at all was in itself the evidence of her profound distress. “By Jove she’s desperate too,” I thought. This discovery was followed by a movement of instinctive shrinking from this unreasonable and unmasculine affair. They were all alike, with their supreme interest aroused only by fighting with each other about some man: a lover, a son, a brother.

“But do you think there’s time yet to do anything?” I asked.

She had an impatient movement of her shoulders without detaching herself from the back of the chair. Time! Of course? It was less than forty-eight hours since she had followed him to London . . . I am no great clerk at those matters but I murmured vaguely an allusion to special licences. We couldn’t tell what might have happened to-day already. But she knew better, scornfully. Nothing had happened.

“Nothing’s likely to happen before next Friday week, — if then.”

This was wonderfully precise. Then after a pause she added that she should never forgive herself if some effort were not made, an appeal.

“To your brother?” I asked.

“Yes. John ought to go to-morrow. Nine o’clock train.”

“So early as that!” I said. But I could not find it in my heart to pursue this discussion in a jocular tone. I submitted to her several obvious arguments, dictated apparently by common sense but in reality by my secret compassion. Mrs. Fyne brushed them aside, with the semi-conscious egoism of all safe, established, existences. They had known each other so little. Just three weeks. And of that time, too short for the birth of any serious sentiment, the first week had to be deducted. They would hardly look at each other to begin with. Flora barely consented to acknowledge Captain Anthony’s presence. Good morning — good night — that was all — absolutely the whole extent of their intercourse. Captain Anthony was a silent man, completely unused to the society of girls of any sort and so shy in fact that he avoided raising his eyes to her face at the table. It was perfectly absurd. It was even inconvenient, embarrassing to her — Mrs. Fyne. After breakfast Flora would go off by herself for a long walk and Captain Anthony (Mrs. Fyne referred to him at times also as Roderick) joined the children. But he was actually too shy to get on terms with his own nieces.

This would have sounded pathetic if I hadn’t known the Fyne children who were at the same time solemn and malicious, and nursed a secret contempt for all the world. No one could get on terms with those fresh and comely young monsters! They just tolerated their parents and seemed to have a sort of mocking understanding among themselves against all outsiders, yet with no visible affection for each other. They had the habit of exchanging derisive glances which to a shy man must have been very trying. They thought their uncle no doubt a bore and perhaps an ass.

I was not surprised to hear that very soon Anthony formed the habit of crossing the two neighbouring fields to seek the shade of a clump of elms at a good distance from the cottage. He lay on the grass and smoked his pipe all the morning. Mrs. Fyne wondered at her brother’s indolent habits. He had asked for books it is true but there were but few in the cottage. He read them through in three days and then continued to lie contentedly on his back with no other companion but his pipe. Amazing indolence! The live-long morning, Mrs. Fyne, busy writing upstairs in the cottage, could see him out of the window. She had a very long sight, and these elms were grouped on a rise of the ground. His indolence was plainly exposed to her criticism on a gentle green slope. Mrs. Fyne wondered at it; she was disgusted too. But having just then ‘commenced author,’ as you know, she could not tear herself away from the fascinating novelty. She let him wallow in his vice. I imagine Captain Anthony must have had a rather pleasant time in a quiet way. It was, I remember, a hot dry summer, favourable to contemplative life out of doors. And Mrs. Fyne was scandalized. Women don’t understand the force of a contemplative temperament. It simply shocks them. They feel instinctively that it is the one which escapes best the domination of feminine influences. The dear girls were exchanging jeering remarks about “lazy uncle Roderick” openly, in her indulgent hearing. And it was so strange, she told me, because as a boy he was anything but indolent. On the contrary. Always active.

I remarked that a man of thirty-five was no longer a boy. It was an obvious remark but she received it without favour. She told me positively that the best, the nicest men remained boys all their lives. She was disappointed not to be able to detect anything boyish in her brother. Very, very sorry. She had not seen him for fifteen years or thereabouts, except on three or four occasions for a few hours at a time. No. Not a trace of the boy, he used to be, left in him.

She fell silent for a moment and I mused idly on the boyhood of little Fyne. I could not imagine what it might have been like. His dominant trait was clearly the remnant of still earlier days, because I’ve never seen such staring solemnity as Fyne’s except in a very young baby. But where was he all that time? Didn’t he suffer contamination from the indolence of Captain Anthony, I inquired. I was told that Mr. Fyne was very little at the cottage at the time. Some colleague of his was convalescing after a severe illness in a little seaside village in the neighbourhood and Fyne went off every morning by train to spend the day with the elderly invalid who had no one to look after him. It was a very praiseworthy excuse for neglecting his brother-in-law “the son of the poet, you know,” with whom he had nothing in common even in the remotest degree. If Captain Anthony (Roderick) had been a pedestrian it would have been sufficient; but he was not. Still, in the afternoon, he went sometimes for a slow casual stroll, by himself of course, the children having definitely cold-shouldered him, and his only sister being busy with that inflammatory book which was to blaze upon the world a year or more afterwards. It seems however that she was capable of detaching her eyes from her task now and then, if only for a moment, because it was from that garret fitted out for a study that one afternoon she observed her brother and Flora de Barral coming down the road side by side. They had met somewhere accidentally (which of them crossed the other’s path, as the saying is, I don’t know), and were returning to tea together. She noticed that they appeared to be conversing without constraint.

“I had the simplicity to be pleased,” Mrs. Fyne commented with a dry little laugh. “Pleased for both their sakes.” Captain Anthony shook off his indolence from that day forth, and accompanied Miss Flora frequently on her morning walks. Mrs. Fyne remained pleased. She could now forget them comfortably and give herself up to the delights of audacious thought and literary composition. Only a week before the blow fell she, happening to raise her eyes from the paper, saw two figures seated on the grass under the shade of the elms. She could make out the white blouse. There could be no mistake.

“I suppose they imagined themselves concealed by the hedge. They forgot no doubt I was working in the garret,” she said bitterly. “Or perhaps they didn’t care. They were right. I am rather a simple person . . . “ She laughed again . . . “I was incapable of suspecting such duplicity.”

“Duplicity is a strong word, Mrs. Fyne — isn’t it?” I expostulated. “And considering that Captain Anthony himself . . . “

“Oh well — perhaps,” she interrupted me. Her eyes which never strayed away from mine, her set features, her whole immovable figure, how well I knew those appearances of a person who has “made up her mind.” A very hopeless condition that, specially in women. I mistrusted her concession so easily, so stonily made. She reflected a moment. “Yes. I ought to have said — ingratitude, perhaps.”

After having thus disengaged her brother and pushed the poor girl a little further off as it were — isn’t women’s cleverness perfectly diabolic when they are really put on their mettle? — after having done these things and also made me feel that I was no match for her, she went on scrupulously: “One doesn’t like to use that word either. The claim is very small. It’s so little one could do for her. Still . . . “

“I dare say,” I exclaimed, throwing diplomacy to the winds. “But really, Mrs. Fyne, it’s impossible to dismiss your brother like this out of the business . . . “

“She threw herself at his head,” Mrs. Fyne uttered firmly.

“He had no business to put his head in the way, then,” I retorted with an angry laugh. I didn’t restrain myself because her fixed stare seemed to express the purpose to daunt me. I was not afraid of her, but it occurred to me that I was within an ace of drifting into a downright quarrel with a lady and, besides, my guest. There was the cold teapot, the emptied cups, emblems of hospitality. It could not be. I cut short my angry laugh while Mrs. Fyne murmured with a slight movement of her shoulders, “He! Poor man! Oh come . . . “

By a great effort of will I found myself able to smile amiably, to speak with proper softness.

“My dear Mrs. Fyne, you forget that I don’t know him — not even by sight. It’s difficult to imagine a victim as passive as all that; but granting you the (I very nearly said: imbecility, but checked myself in time) innocence of Captain Anthony, don’t you think now, frankly, that there is a little of your own fault in what has happened. You bring them together, you leave your brother to himself!”

She sat up and leaning her elbow on the table sustained her head in her open palm casting down her eyes. Compunction? It was indeed a very off-hand way of treating a brother come to stay for the first time in fifteen years. I suppose she discovered very soon that she had nothing in common with that sailor, that stranger, fashioned and marked by the sea of long voyages. In her strong-minded way she had scorned pretences, had gone to her writing which interested her immensely. A very praiseworthy thing your sincere conduct, — if it didn’t at times resemble brutality so much. But I don’t think it was compunction. That sentiment is rare in women . . . “

“Is it?” I interrupted indignantly.

“You know more women than I do,” retorted the unabashed Marlow. “You make it your business to know them — don’t you? You go about a lot amongst all sorts of people. You are a tolerably honest observer. Well, just try to remember how many instances of compunction you have seen. I am ready to take your bare word for it. Compunction! Have you ever seen as much as its shadow? Have you ever? Just a shadow — a passing shadow! I tell you it is so rare that you may call it non-existent. They are too passionate. Too pedantic. Too courageous with themselves — perhaps. No I don’t think for a moment that Mrs. Fyne felt the slightest compunction at her treatment of her sea-going brother. What he thought of it who can tell? It is possible that he wondered why he had been so insistently urged to come. It is possible that he wondered bitterly — or contemptuously — or humbly. And it may be that he was only surprised and bored. Had he been as sincere in his conduct as his only sister he would have probably taken himself off at the end of the second day. But perhaps he was afraid of appearing brutal. I am not far removed from the conviction that between the sincerities of his sister and of his dear nieces, Captain Anthony of the Ferndale must have had his loneliness brought home to his bosom for the first time of his life, at an age, thirty-five or thereabouts, when one is mature enough to feel the pang of such a discovery. Angry or simply sad but certainly disillusioned he wanders about and meets the girl one afternoon and under the sway of a strong feeling forgets his shyness. This is no supposition. It is a fact. There was such a meeting in which the shyness must have perished before we don’t know what encouragement, or in the community of mood made apparent by some casual word. You remember that Mrs. Fyne saw them one afternoon coming back to the cottage together. Don’t you think that I have hit on the psychology of the situation? . . . “

“Doubtless . . . “ I began to ponder.

“I was very certain of my conclusions at the time,” Marlow went on impatiently. “But don’t think for a moment that Mrs. Fyne in her new attitude and toying thoughtfully with a teaspoon was about to surrender. She murmured:

“It’s the last thing I should have thought could happen.”

“You didn’t suppose they were romantic enough,” I suggested dryly.

She let it pass and with great decision but as if speaking to herself,

“Roderick really must be warned.”

She didn’t give me the time to ask of what precisely. She raised her head and addressed me.

“I am surprised and grieved more than I can tell you at Mr. Fyne’s resistance. We have been always completely at one on every question. And that we should differ now on a point touching my brother so closely is a most painful surprise to me.” Her hand rattled the teaspoon brusquely by an involuntary movement. “It is intolerable,” she added tempestuously — for Mrs. Fyne that is. I suppose she had nerves of her own like any other woman.

Under the porch where Fyne had sought refuge with the dog there was silence. I took it for a proof of deep sagacity. I don’t mean on the part of the dog. He was a confirmed fool.

I said:

“You want absolutely to interfere . . . ?” Mrs. Fyne nodded just perceptibly . . . “Well — for my part . . . but I don’t really know how matters stand at the present time. You have had a letter from Miss de Barral. What does that letter say?”

“She asks for her valise to be sent to her town address,” Mrs. Fyne uttered reluctantly and stopped. I waited a bit — then exploded.

“Well! What’s the matter? Where’s the difficulty? Does your husband object to that? You don’t mean to say that he wants you to appropriate the girl’s clothes?”

“Mr. Marlow!”

“Well, but you talk of a painful difference of opinion with your husband, and then, when I ask for information on the point, you bring out a valise. And only a few moments ago you reproached me for not being serious. I wonder who is the serious person of us two now.”

She smiled faintly and in a friendly tone, from which I concluded at once that she did not mean to show me the girl’s letter, she said that undoubtedly the letter disclosed an understanding between Captain Anthony and Flora de Barral.

“What understanding?” I pressed her. “An engagement is an understanding.”

“There is no engagement — not yet,” she said decisively. “That letter, Mr. Marlow, is couched in very vague terms. That is why — ”

I interrupted her without ceremony.

“You still hope to interfere to some purpose. Isn’t it so? Yes? But how should you have liked it if anybody had tried to interfere between you and Mr. Fyne at the time when your understanding with each other could still have been described in vague terms?”

She had a genuine movement of astonished indignation. It is with the accent of perfect sincerity that she cried out at me:

“But it isn’t at all the same thing! How can you!”

Indeed how could I! The daughter of a poet and the daughter of a convict are not comparable in the consequences of their conduct if their necessity may wear at times a similar aspect. Amongst these consequences I could perceive undesirable cousins for these dear healthy girls, and such like, possible causes of embarrassment in the future.

“No! You can’t be serious,” Mrs. Fyne’s smouldering resentment broke out again. “You haven’t thought — ”

“Oh yes, Mrs. Fyne! I have thought. I am still thinking. I am even trying to think like you.”

“Mr. Marlow,” she said earnestly. “Believe me that I really am thinking of my brother in all this . . . “ I assured her that I quite believed she was. For there is no law of nature making it impossible to think of more than one person at a time. Then I said:

“She has told him all about herself of course.”

“All about her life,” assented Mrs. Fyne with an air, however, of making some mental reservation which I did not pause to investigate. “Her life!” I repeated. “That girl must have had a mighty bad time of it.”

“Horrible,” Mrs. Fyne admitted with a ready frankness very creditable under the circumstances, and a warmth of tone which made me look at her with a friendly eye. “Horrible! No! You can’t imagine the sort of vulgar people she became dependent on . . . You know her father never attempted to see her while he was still at large. After his arrest he instructed that relative of his — the odious person who took her away from Brighton — not to let his daughter come to the court during the trial. He refused to hold any communication with her whatever.”

I remembered what Mrs. Fyne had told me before of the view she had years ago of de Barral clinging to the child at the side of his wife’s grave and later on of these two walking hand in hand the observed of all eyes by the sea. Pictures from Dickens — pregnant with pathos.

Chapter 6 — Flora

“A very singular prohibition,” remarked Mrs. Fyne after a short silence. “He seemed to love the child.”

She was puzzled. But I surmised that it might have been the sullenness of a man unconscious of guilt and standing at bay to fight his “persecutors,” as he called them; or else the fear of a softer emotion weakening his defiant attitude; perhaps, even, it was a self-denying ordinance, in order to spare the girl the sight of her father in the dock, accused of cheating, sentenced as a swindler — proving the possession of a certain moral delicacy.

Mrs. Fyne didn’t know what to think. She supposed it might have been mere callousness. But the people amongst whom the girl had fallen had positively not a grain of moral delicacy. Of that she was certain. Mrs. Fyne could not undertake to give me an idea of their abominable vulgarity. Flora used to tell her something of her life in that household, over there, down Limehouse way. It was incredible. It passed Mrs. Fyne’s comprehension. It was a sort of moral savagery which she could not have thought possible.

I, on the contrary, thought it very possible. I could imagine easily how the poor girl must have been bewildered and hurt at her reception in that household — envied for her past while delivered defenceless to the tender mercies of people without any fineness either of feeling or mind, unable to understand her misery, grossly curious, mistaking her manner for disdain, her silent shrinking for pride. The wife of the “odious person” was witless and fatuously conceited. Of the two girls of the house one was pious and the other a romp; both were coarse-minded — if they may be credited with any mind at all. The rather numerous men of the family were dense and grumpy, or dense and jocose. None in that grubbing lot had enough humanity to leave her alone. At first she was made much of, in an offensively patronising manner. The connection with the great de Barral gratified their vanity even in the moment of the smash. They dragged her to their place of worship, whatever it might have been, where the congregation stared at her, and they gave parties to other beings like themselves at which they exhibited her with ignoble self-satisfaction. She did not know how to defend herself from their importunities, insolence and exigencies. She lived amongst them, a passive victim, quivering in every nerve, as if she were flayed. After the trial her position became still worse. On the least occasion and even on no occasions at all she was scolded, or else taunted with her dependence. The pious girl lectured her on her defects, the romping girl teased her with contemptuous references to her accomplishments, and was always trying to pick insensate quarrels with her about some “fellow” or other. The mother backed up her girls invariably, adding her own silly, wounding remarks. I must say they were probably not aware of the ugliness of their conduct. They were nasty amongst themselves as a matter of course; their disputes were nauseating in origin, in manner, in the spirit of mean selfishness. These women, too, seemed to enjoy greatly any sort of row and were always ready to combine together to make awful scenes to the luckless girl on incredibly flimsy pretences. Thus Flora on one occasion had been reduced to rage and despair, had her most secret feelings lacerated, had obtained a view of the utmost baseness to which common human nature can descend — I won’t say à propos de bottes as the French would excellently put it, but literally à propos of some mislaid cheap lace trimmings for a nightgown the romping one was making for herself. Yes, that was the origin of one of the grossest scenes which, in their repetition, must have had a deplorable effect on the unformed character of the most pitiful of de Barral’s victims. I have it from Mrs. Fyne. The girl turned up at the Fynes’ house at half-past nine on a cold, drizzly evening. She had walked bareheaded, I believe, just as she ran out of the house, from somewhere in Poplar to the neighbourhood of Sloane Square — without stopping, without drawing breath, if only for a sob.

“We were having some people to dinner,” said the anxious sister of Captain Anthony.

She had heard the front door bell and wondered what it might mean. The parlourmaid managed to whisper to her without attracting attention. The servants had been frightened by the invasion of that wild girl in a muddy skirt and with wisps of damp hair sticking to her pale cheeks. But they had seen her before. This was not the first occasion, nor yet the last.

Directly she could slip away from her guests Mrs. Fyne ran upstairs.

“I found her in the night nursery crouching on the floor, her head resting on the cot of the youngest of my girls. The eldest was sitting up in bed looking at her across the room.”

Only a nightlight was burning there. Mrs. Fyne raised her up, took her over to Mr. Fyne’s little dressing-room on the other side of the landing, to a fire by which she could dry herself, and left her there. She had to go back to her guests.

A most disagreeable surprise it must have been to the Fynes. Afterwards they both went up and interviewed the girl. She jumped up at their entrance. She had shaken her damp hair loose; her eyes were dry — with the heat of rage.

I can imagine little Fyne solemnly sympathetic, solemnly listening, solemnly retreating to the marital bedroom. Mrs. Fyne pacified the girl, and, fortunately, there was a bed which could be made up for her in the dressing-room.

“But — what could one do after all!” concluded Mrs. Fyne.

And this stereotyped exclamation, expressing the difficulty of the problem and the readiness (at any rate) of good intentions, made me, as usual, feel more kindly towards her.

Next morning, very early, long before Fyne had to start for his office, the “odious personage” turned up, not exactly unexpected perhaps, but startling all the same, if only by the promptness of his action. From what Flora herself related to Mrs. Fyne, it seems that without being very perceptibly less “odious” than his family he had in a rather mysterious fashion interposed his authority for the protection of the girl. “Not that he cares,” explained Flora. “I am sure he does not. I could not stand being liked by any of these people. If I thought he liked me I would drown myself rather than go back with him.”

For of course he had come to take “Florrie” home. The scene was the dining-room — breakfast interrupted, dishes growing cold, little Fyne’s toast growing leathery, Fyne out of his chair with his back to the fire, the newspaper on the carpet, servants shut out, Mrs. Fyne rigid in her place with the girl sitting beside her — the “odious person,” who had bustled in with hardly a greeting, looking from Fyne to Mrs. Fyne as though he were inwardly amused at something he knew of them; and then beginning ironically his discourse. He did not apologize for disturbing Fyne and his “good lady” at breakfast, because he knew they did not want (with a nod at the girl) to have more of her than could be helped. He came the first possible moment because he had his business to attend to. He wasn’t drawing a tip-top salary (this staring at Fyne) in a luxuriously furnished office. Not he. He had risen to be an employer of labour and was bound to give a good example.

I believe the fellow was aware of, and enjoyed quietly, the consternation his presence brought to the bosom of Mr. and Mrs. Fyne. He turned briskly to the girl. Mrs. Fyne confessed to me that they had remained all three silent and inanimate. He turned to the girl: “What’s this game, Florrie? You had better give it up. If you expect me to run all over London looking for you every time you happen to have a tiff with your auntie and cousins you are mistaken. I can’t afford it.”

Tiff — was the sort of definition to take one’s breath away, having regard to the fact that both the word convict and the word pauper had been used a moment before Flora de Barral ran away from the quarrel about the lace trimmings. Yes, these very words! So at least the girl had told Mrs. Fyne the evening before. The word tiff in connection with her tale had a peculiar savour, a paralysing effect. Nobody made a sound. The relative of de Barral proceeded uninterrupted to a display of magnanimity. “Auntie told me to tell you she’s sorry — there! And Amelia (the romping sister) shan’t worry you again. I’ll see to that. You ought to be satisfied. Remember your position.”

Emboldened by the utter stillness pervading the room he addressed himself to Mrs. Fyne with stolid effrontery:

“What I say is that people should be good-natured. She can’t stand being chaffed. She puts on her grand airs. She won’t take a bit of a joke from people as good as herself anyway. We are a plain lot. We don’t like it. And that’s how trouble begins.”

Insensible to the stony stare of three pairs of eyes, which, if the stories of our childhood as to the power of the human eye are true, ought to have been enough to daunt a tiger, that unabashed manufacturer from the East End fastened his fangs, figuratively speaking, into the poor girl and prepared to drag her away for a prey to his cubs of both sexes. “Auntie has thought of sending you your hat and coat. I’ve got them outside in the cab.”

Mrs. Fyne looked mechanically out of the window. A four-wheeler stood before the gate under the weeping sky. The driver in his conical cape and tarpaulin hat, streamed with water. The drooping horse looked as though it had been fished out, half unconscious, from a pond. Mrs. Fyne found some relief in looking at that miserable sight, away from the room in which the voice of the amiable visitor resounded with a vulgar intonation exhorting the strayed sheep to return to the delightful fold. “Come, Florrie, make a move. I can’t wait on you all day here.”

Mrs. Fyne heard all this without turning her head away from the window. Fyne on the hearthrug had to listen and to look on too. I shall not try to form a surmise as to the real nature of the suspense. Their very goodness must have made it very anxious. The girl’s hands were lying in her lap; her head was lowered as if in deep thought; and the other went on delivering a sort of homily. Ingratitude was condemned in it, the sinfulness of pride was pointed out — together with the proverbial fact that it “goes before a fall.” There were also some sound remarks as to the danger of nonsensical notions and the disadvantages of a quick temper. It sets one’s best friends against one. “And if anybody ever wanted friends in the world it’s you, my girl.” Even respect for parental authority was invoked. “In the first hour of his trouble your father wrote to me to take care of you — don’t forget it. Yes, to me, just a plain man, rather than to any of his fine West-End friends. You can’t get over that. And a father’s a father no matter what a mess he’s got himself into. You ain’t going to throw over your own father — are you?”

It was difficult to say whether he was more absurd than cruel or more cruel than absurd. Mrs. Fyne, with the fine ear of a woman, seemed to detect a jeering intention in his meanly unctuous tone, something more vile than mere cruelty. She glanced quickly over her shoulder and saw the girl raise her two hands to her head, then let them fall again on her lap. Fyne in front of the fire was like the victim of an unholy spell — bereft of motion and speech but obviously in pain. It was a short pause of perfect silence, and then that “odious creature” (he must have been really a remarkable individual in his way) struck out into sarcasm.

“Well? . . . “ Again a silence. “If you have fixed it up with the lady and gentleman present here for your board and lodging you had better say so. I don’t want to interfere in a bargain I know nothing of. But I wonder how your father will take it when he comes out . . . or don’t you expect him ever to come out?”

At that moment, Mrs. Fyne told me she met the girl’s eyes. There was that in them which made her shut her own. She also felt as though she would have liked to put her fingers in her ears. She restrained herself, however; and the “plain man” passed in his appalling versatility from sarcasm to veiled menace.

“You have — eh? Well and good. But before I go home let me ask you, my girl, to think if by any chance you throwing us over like this won’t be rather bad for your father later on? Just think it over.”

He looked at his victim with an air of cunning mystery. She jumped up so suddenly that he started back. Mrs. Fyne rose too, and even the spell was removed from her husband. But the girl dropped again into the chair and turned her head to look at Mrs. Fyne. This time it was no accidental meeting of fugitive glances. It was a deliberate communication. To my question as to its nature Mrs. Fyne said she did not know. “Was it appealing?” I suggested. “No,” she said. “Was it frightened, angry, crushed, resigned?” “No! No! Nothing of these.” But it had frightened her. She remembered it to this day. She had been ever since fancying she could detect the lingering reflection of that look in all the girl’s glances. In the attentive, in the casual — even in the grateful glances — in the expression of the softest moods.

“Has she her soft moods, then?” I asked with interest.

Mrs Fyne, much moved by her recollections, heeded not my inquiry. All her mental energy was concentrated on the nature of that memorable glance. The general tradition of mankind teaches us that glances occupy a considerable place in the self-expression of women. Mrs. Fyne was trying honestly to give me some idea, as much perhaps to satisfy her own uneasiness as my curiosity. She was frowning in the effort as you see sometimes a child do (what is delightful in women is that they so often resemble intelligent children — I mean the crustiest, the sourest, the most battered of them do — at times). She was frowning, I say, and I was beginning to smile faintly at her when all at once she came out with something totally unexpected.

“It was horribly merry,” she said.

I suppose she must have been satisfied by my sudden gravity because she looked at me in a friendly manner.

“Yes, Mrs. Fyne,” I said, smiling no longer. “I see. It would have been horrible even on the stage.”

“Ah!” she interrupted me — and I really believe her change of attitude back to folded arms was meant to check a shudder. “But it wasn’t on the stage, and it was not with her lips that she laughed.”

“Yes. It must have been horrible,” I assented. “And then she had to go away ultimately — I suppose. You didn’t say anything?”

“No,” said Mrs. Fyne. “I rang the bell and told one of the maids to go and bring the hat and coat out of the cab. And then we waited.”

I don’t think that there ever was such waiting unless possibly in a jail at some moment or other on the morning of an execution. The servant appeared with the hat and coat, and then, still as on the morning of an execution, when the condemned, I believe, is offered a breakfast, Mrs. Fyne, anxious that the white-faced girl should swallow something warm (if she could) before leaving her house for an interminable drive through raw cold air in a damp four-wheeler — Mrs. Fyne broke the awful silence: “You really must try to eat something,” in her best resolute manner. She turned to the “odious person” with the same determination. “Perhaps you will sit down and have a cup of coffee, too.”

The worthy “employer of labour” sat down. He might have been awed by Mrs. Fyne’s peremptory manner — for she did not think of conciliating him then. He sat down, provisionally, like a man who finds himself much against his will in doubtful company. He accepted ungraciously the cup handed to him by Mrs. Fyne, took an unwilling sip or two and put it down as if there were some moral contamination in the coffee of these “swells.” Between whiles he directed mysteriously inexpressive glances at little Fyne, who, I gather, had no breakfast that morning at all. Neither had the girl. She never moved her hands from her lap till her appointed guardian got up, leaving his cup half full.

“Well. If you don’t mean to take advantage of this lady’s kind offer I may just as well take you home at once. I want to begin my day — I do.”

After a few more dumb, leaden-footed minutes while Flora was putting on her hat and jacket, the Fynes without moving, without saying anything, saw these two leave the room.

“She never looked back at us,” said Mrs. Fyne. “She just followed him out. I’ve never had such a crushing impression of the miserable dependence of girls — of women. This was an extreme case. But a young man — any man — could have gone to break stones on the roads or something of that kind — or enlisted — or — ”

It was very true. Women can’t go forth on the high roads and by-ways to pick up a living even when dignity, independence, or existence itself are at stake. But what made me interrupt Mrs. Fyne’s tirade was my profound surprise at the fact of that respectable citizen being so willing to keep in his home the poor girl for whom it seemed there was no place in the world. And not only willing but anxious. I couldn’t credit him with generous impulses. For it seemed obvious to me from what I had learned that, to put it mildly, he was not an impulsive person.

“I confess that I can’t understand his motive,” I exclaimed.

“This is exactly what John wondered at, at first,” said Mrs. Fyne. By that time an intimacy — if not exactly confidence — had sprung up between us which permitted her in this discussion to refer to her husband as John. “You know he had not opened his lips all that time,” she pursued. “I don’t blame his restraint. On the contrary. What could he have said? I could see he was observing the man very thoughtfully.”

“And so, Mr. Fyne listened, observed and meditated,” I said. “That’s an excellent way of coming to a conclusion. And may I ask at what conclusion he had managed to arrive? On what ground did he cease to wonder at the inexplicable? For I can’t admit humanity to be the explanation. It would be too monstrous.”

It was nothing of the sort, Mrs. Fyne assured me with some resentment, as though I had aspersed little Fyne’s sanity. Fyne very sensibly had set himself the mental task of discovering the self-interest. I should not have thought him capable of so much cynicism. He said to himself that for people of that sort (religious fears or the vanity of righteousness put aside) money — not great wealth, but money, just a little money — is the measure of virtue, of expediency, of wisdom — of pretty well everything. But the girl was absolutely destitute. The father was in prison after the most terribly complete and disgraceful smash of modern times. And then it dawned upon Fyne that this was just it. The great smash, in the great dust of vanishing millions! Was it possible that they all had vanished to the last penny? Wasn’t there, somewhere, something palpable; some fragment of the fabric left?

“That’s it,” had exclaimed Fyne, startling his wife by this explosive unseating of his lips less than half an hour after the departure of de Barral’s cousin with de Barral’s daughter. It was still in the dining-room, very near the time for him to go forth affronting the elements in order to put in another day’s work in his country’s service. All he could say at the moment in elucidation of this breakdown from his usual placid solemnity was:

“The fellow imagines that de Barral has got some plunder put away somewhere.”

This being the theory arrived at by Fyne, his comment on it was that a good many bankrupts had been known to have taken such a precaution. It was possible in de Barral’s case. Fyne went so far in his display of cynical pessimism as to say that it was extremely probable.

He explained at length to Mrs. Fyne that de Barral certainly did not take anyone into his confidence. But the beastly relative had made up his low mind that it was so. He was selfish and pitiless in his stupidity, but he had clearly conceived the notion of making a claim on de Barral when de Barral came out of prison on the strength of having “looked after” (as he would have himself expressed it) his daughter. He nursed his hopes, such as they were, in secret, and it is to be supposed kept them even from his wife.

I could see it very well. That belief accounted for his mysterious air while he interfered in favour of the girl. He was the only protector she had. It was as though Flora had been fated to be always surrounded by treachery and lies stifling every better impulse, every instinctive aspiration of her soul to trust and to love. It would have been enough to drive a fine nature into the madness of universal suspicion — into any sort of madness. I don’t know how far a sense of humour will stand by one. To the foot of the gallows, perhaps. But from my recollection of Flora de Barral I feared that she hadn’t much sense of humour. She had cried at the desertion of the absurd Fyne dog. That animal was certainly free from duplicity. He was frank and simple and ridiculous. The indignation of the girl at his unhypocritical behaviour had been funny but not humorous.

As you may imagine I was not very anxious to resume the discussion on the justice, expediency, effectiveness or what not, of Fyne’s journey to London. It isn’t that I was unfaithful to little Fyne out in the porch with the dog. (They kept amazingly quiet there. Could they have gone to sleep?) What I felt was that either my sagacity or my conscience would come out damaged from that campaign. And no man will willingly put himself in the way of moral damage. I did not want a war with Mrs. Fyne. I much preferred to hear something more of the girl. I said:

“And so she went away with that respectable ruffian.”

Mrs. Fyne moved her shoulders slightly — ”What else could she have done?” I agreed with her by another hopeless gesture. It isn’t so easy for a girl like Flora de Barral to become a factory hand, a pathetic seamstress or even a barmaid. She wouldn’t have known how to begin. She was the captive of the meanest conceivable fate. And she wasn’t mean enough for it. It is to be remarked that a good many people are born curiously unfitted for the fate awaiting them on this earth. As I don’t want you to think that I am unduly partial to the girl we shall say that she failed decidedly to endear herself to that simple, virtuous and, I believe, teetotal household. It’s my conviction that an angel would have failed likewise. It’s no use going into details; suffice it to state that before the year was out she was again at the Fynes’ door.

This time she was escorted by a stout youth. His large pale face wore a smile of inane cunning soured by annoyance. His clothes were new and the indescribable smartness of their cut, a genre which had never been obtruded on her notice before, astonished Mrs. Fyne, who came out into the hall with her hat on; for she was about to go out to hear a new pianist (a girl) in a friend’s house. The youth addressing Mrs. Fyne easily begged her not to let “that silly thing go back to us any more.” There had been, he said, nothing but “ructions” at home about her for the last three weeks. Everybody in the family was heartily sick of quarrelling. His governor had charged him to bring her to this address and say that the lady and gentleman were quite welcome to all there was in it. She hadn’t enough sense to appreciate a plain, honest English home and she was better out of it.

The young, pimply-faced fellow was vexed by this job his governor had sprung on him. It was the cause of his missing an appointment for that afternoon with a certain young lady. The lady he was engaged to. But he meant to dash back and try for a sight of her that evening yet “if he were to burst over it.” “Good-bye, Florrie. Good luck to you — and I hope I’ll never see your face again.”

With that he ran out in lover-like haste leaving the hall-door wide open. Mrs. Fyne had not found a word to say. She had been too much taken aback even to gasp freely. But she had the presence of mind to grab the girl’s arm just as she, too, was running out into the street — with the haste, I suppose, of despair and to keep I don’t know what tragic tryst.

“You stopped her with your own hand, Mrs. Fyne,” I said. “I presume she meant to get away. That girl is no comedian — if I am any judge.”

“Yes! I had to use some force to drag her in.”

Mrs. Fyne had no difficulty in stating the truth. “You see I was in the very act of letting myself out when these two appeared. So that, when that unpleasant young man ran off, I found myself alone with Flora. It was all I could do to hold her in the hall while I called to the servants to come and shut the door.”

As is my habit, or my weakness, or my gift, I don’t know which, I visualized the story for myself. I really can’t help it. And the vision of Mrs. Fyne dressed for a rather special afternoon function, engaged in wrestling with a wild-eyed, white-faced girl had a certain dramatic fascination.

“Really!” I murmured.

“Oh! There’s no doubt that she struggled,” said Mrs. Fyne. She compressed her lips for a moment and then added: “As to her being a comedian that’s another question.”

Mrs. Fyne had returned to her attitude of folded arms. I saw before me the daughter of the refined poet accepting life whole with its unavoidable conditions of which one of the first is the instinct of self-preservation and the egoism of every living creature. “The fact remains nevertheless that you — yourself — have, in your own words, pulled her in,” I insisted in a jocular tone, with a serious intention.

“What was one to do,” exclaimed Mrs. Fyne with almost comic exasperation. “Are you reproaching me with being too impulsive?”

And she went on telling me that she was not that in the least. One of the recommendations she always insisted on (to the girl-friends, I imagine) was to be on guard against impulse. Always! But I had not been there to see the face of Flora at the time. If I had it would be haunting me to this day. Nobody unless made of iron would have allowed a human being with a face like that to rush out alone into the streets.

“And doesn’t it haunt you, Mrs. Fyne?” I asked.

“No, not now,” she said implacably. “Perhaps if I had let her go it might have done . . . Don’t conclude, though, that I think she was playing a comedy then, because after struggling at first she ended by remaining. She gave up very suddenly. She collapsed in our arms, mine and the maid’s who came running up in response to my calls, and . . . “

“And the door was then shut,” I completed the phrase in my own way.

“Yes, the door was shut,” Mrs. Fyne lowered and raised her head slowly.

I did not ask her for details. Of one thing I am certain, and that is that Mrs. Fyne did not go out to the musical function that afternoon. She was no doubt considerably annoyed at missing the privilege of hearing privately an interesting young pianist (a girl) who, since, had become one of the recognized performers. Mrs. Fyne did not dare leave her house. As to the feelings of little Fyne when he came home from the office, via his club, just half an hour before dinner, I have no information. But I venture to affirm that in the main they were kindly, though it is quite possible that in the first moment of surprise he had to keep down a swear-word or two.

* * * * *

The long and the short of it all is that next day the Fynes made up their minds to take into their confidence a certain wealthy old lady. With certain old ladies the passing years bring back a sort of mellowed youthfulness of feeling, an optimistic outlook, liking for novelty, readiness for experiment. The old lady was very much interested: “Do let me see the poor thing!” She was accordingly allowed to see Flora de Barral in Mrs. Fyne’s drawing-room on a day when there was no one else there, and she preached to her with charming, sympathetic authority: “The only way to deal with our troubles, my dear child, is to forget them. You must forget yours. It’s very simple. Look at me. I always forget mine. At your age one ought to be cheerful.”

Later on when left alone with Mrs. Fyne she said to that lady: “I do hope the child will manage to be cheerful. I can’t have sad faces near me. At my age one needs cheerful companions.”

And in this hope she carried off Flora de Barral to Bournemouth for the winter months in the quality of reader and companion. She had said to her with kindly jocularity: “We shall have a good time together. I am not a grumpy old woman.” But on their return to London she sought Mrs. Fyne at once. She had discovered that Flora was not naturally cheerful. When she made efforts to be it was still worse. The old lady couldn’t stand the strain of that. And then, to have the whole thing out, she could not bear to have for a companion anyone who did not love her. She was certain that Flora did not love her. Why? She couldn’t say. Moreover, she had caught the girl looking at her in a peculiar way at times. Oh no! — it was not an evil look — it was an unusual expression which one could not understand. And when one remembered that her father was in prison shut up together with a lot of criminals and so on — it made one uncomfortable. If the child had only tried to forget her troubles! But she obviously was incapable or unwilling to do so. And that was somewhat perverse — wasn’t it? Upon the whole, she thought it would be better perhaps —

Mrs. Fyne assented hurriedly to the unspoken conclusion: “Oh certainly! Certainly,” wondering to herself what was to be done with Flora next; but she was not very much surprised at the change in the old lady’s view of Flora de Barral. She almost understood it.

What came next was a German family, the continental acquaintances of the wife of one of Fyne’s colleagues in the Home Office. Flora of the enigmatical glances was dispatched to them without much reflection. As it was not considered absolutely necessary to take them into full confidence, they neither expected the girl to be specially cheerful nor were they discomposed unduly by the indescribable quality of her glances. The German woman was quite ordinary; there were two boys to look after; they were ordinary, too, I presume; and Flora, I understand, was very attentive to them. If she taught them anything it must have been by inspiration alone, for she certainly knew nothing of teaching. But