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
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
The fact remains that he has written it.
Mr. Razumov was a tall, well-proportioned young man, quite unusually
dark for a Russian from the Central Provinces. His good looks would have
been unquestionable if it had not been for a peculiar lack of fineness
in the features. It was as if a face modelled vigorously in wax (with
some approach even to a classical correctness of type) had been
held close to a fire till all sharpness of line had been lost in
the softening of the material. But even thus he was sufficiently
good-looking. His manner, too, was good. In discussion he was easily
swayed by argument and authority. With his younger compatriots he took
the attitude of an inscrutable listener, a listener of the kind that
hears you out intelligently and then--just changes the subject.
This sort of trick, which may arise either from intellectual
insufficiency or from an imperfect trust in one's own convictions,
procured for Mr. Razumov a reputation of profundity. Amongst a lot of
exuberant talkers, in the habit of exhausting themselves daily by ardent
discussion, a comparatively taciturn personality is naturally credited
with reserve power. By his comrades at the St. Petersburg University,
Kirylo Sidorovitch Razumov, third year's student in philosophy, was
looked upon as a strong nature--an altogether trustworthy man. This,
in a country where an opinion may be a legal crime visited by death or
sometimes by a fate worse than mere death, meant that he was worthy
of being trusted with forbidden opinions. He was liked also for his
amiability and for his quiet readiness to oblige his comrades even at
the cost of personal inconvenience.
Mr. Razumov was supposed to be the son of an Archpriest and to be
protected by a distinguished nobleman--perhaps of his own distant
province. But his outward appearance accorded badly with such humble
origin. Such a descent was not credible. It was, indeed, suggested that
Mr. Razumov was the son of an Archpriest's pretty daughter--which, of
course, would put a different complexion on the matter. This theory also
rendered intelligible the protection of the distinguished nobleman. All
this, however, had never been investigated maliciously or otherwise. No
one knew or cared who the nobleman in question was. Razumov received
a modest but very sufficient allowance from the hands of an obscure
attorney, who seemed to act as his guardian in some measure. Now and
then he appeared at some professor's informal reception. Apart from
that Razumov was not known to have any social relations in the town.
He attended the obligatory lectures regularly and was considered by the
authorities as a very promising student. He worked at home in the manner
of a man who means to get on, but did not shut himself up severely for
that purpose. He was always accessible, and there was nothing secret or
reserved in his life.
The origin of Mr. Razumov's record is connected with an event
characteristic of modern Russia in the actual fact: the assassination
of a prominent statesman--and still more characteristic of the moral
corruption of an oppressed society where the noblest aspirations of
humanity, the desire of freedom, an ardent patriotism, the love of
justice, the sense of pity, and even the fidelity of simple minds are
prostituted to the lusts of hate and fear, the inseparable companions of
an uneasy despotism.
The fact alluded to above is the successful attempt on the life of Mr.
de P---, the President of the notorious Repressive Commission of some
years ago, the Minister of State invested with extraordinary powers. The
newspapers made noise enough about that fanatical, narrow-chested figure
in gold-laced uniform, with a face of crumpled parchment, insipid,
bespectacled eyes, and the cross of the Order of St. Procopius hung
under the skinny throat. For a time, it may be remembered, not a month
passed without his portrait appearing in some one of the illustrated
papers of Europe. He served the monarchy by imprisoning, exiling, or
sending to the gallows men and women, young and old, with an equable,
unwearied industry. In his mystic acceptance of the principle of
autocracy he was bent on extirpating from the land every vestige of
anything that resembled freedom in public institutions; and in his
ruthless persecution of the rising generation he seemed to aim at the
destruction of the very hope of liberty itself.
It is said that this execrated personality had not enough imagination
to be aware of the hate he inspired. It is hardly credible; but it is a
fact that he took very few precautions for his safety. In the preamble
of a certain famous State paper he had declared once that "the thought
of liberty has never existed in the Act of the Creator. From the
multitude of men's counsel nothing could come but revolt and disorder;
and revolt and disorder in a world created for obedience and stability
is sin. It was not Reason but Authority which expressed the Divine
Intention. God was the Autocrat of the Universe...." It may be that
the man who made this declaration believed that heaven itself was bound
to protect him in his remorseless defence of Autocracy on this earth.
No doubt the vigilance of the police saved him many times; but, as a
matter of fact, when his appointed fate overtook him, the competent
authorities could not have given him any warning. They had no knowledge
of any conspiracy against the Minister's life, had no hint of any plot
through their usual channels of information, had seen no signs, were
aware of no suspicious movements or dangerous persons.
Mr. de P--- was being driven towards the railway station in a two-horse
uncovered sleigh with footman and coachman on the box. Snow had been
falling all night, making the roadway, uncleared as yet at this early
hour, very heavy for the horses. It was still falling thickly. But the
sleigh must have been observed and marked down. As it drew over to the
left before taking a turn, the footman noticed a peasant walking
slowly on the edge of the pavement with his hands in the pockets of
his sheepskin coat and his shoulders hunched up to his ears under the
falling snow. On being overtaken this peasant suddenly faced about and
swung his arm. In an instant there was a terrible shock, a detonation
muffled in the multitude of snowflakes; both horses lay dead and mangled
on the ground and the coachman, with a shrill cry, had fallen off the
box mortally wounded. The footman (who survived) had no time to see the
face of the man in the sheepskin coat. After throwing the bomb this last
got away, but it is supposed that, seeing a lot of people surging up on
all sides of him in the falling snow, and all running towards the scene
of the explosion, he thought it safer to turn back with them.
In an incredibly short time an excited crowd assembled round the sledge.
The Minister-President, getting out unhurt into the deep snow, stood
near the groaning coachman and addressed the people repeatedly in his
weak, colourless voice: "I beg of you to keep off: For the love of God,
I beg of you good people to 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
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
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
Razumov had listened in astonishment; but before he could open his mouth
Haldin added, speaking deliberately, "It was I who removed de P--- this
morning." Razumov kept down a cry of dismay. The sentiment of his life
being utterly ruined by this contact with such a crime expressed itself
quaintly by a sort of half-derisive mental exclamation, "There goes my
Haldin continued after waiting a while--
"You say nothing, Kirylo Sidorovitch! I understand your silence. To be
sure, I cannot expect you with your frigid English manner to embrace
me. But never mind your manners. You have enough heart to have heard the
sound of weeping and gnashing of teeth this man raised in the land. That
would be enough to get over any philosophical hopes. He was uprooting
the tender plant. He had to be stopped. He was a dangerous man--a
convinced man. Three more years of his work would have put us back fifty
years into bondage--and look at all the lives wasted, at all the souls
lost in that time."
His curt, self-confident voice suddenly lost its ring and it was in a
dull tone that he added, "Yes, brother, I have killed him. It's weary
Razumov had sunk into a chair. Every moment he expected a crowd of
policemen to rush in. There must have been thousands of them out looking
for that man walking up and down in his room. Haldin was talking again
in a restrained, steady voice. Now and then he flourished an arm,
slowly, without excitement.
He told Razumov how he had brooded for a year; how he had not slept
properly for weeks. He and "Another" had a warning of the Minister's
movements from "a certain person" late the evening before. He and that
"Another" prepared their "engines" and resolved to have no sleep till
"the deed" was done. They walked the streets under the falling snow with
the "engines" on them, exchanging not a word the livelong night. When
they happened to meet a police patrol they took each other by the arm
and pretended to be a couple of peasants on the spree. They reeled and
talked in drunken hoarse voices. Except for these strange outbreaks they
kept silence, moving on ceaselessly. Their plans had been previously
arranged. At daybreak they made their way to the spot which they
knew the sledge must pass. When it appeared in sight they exchanged a
muttered good-bye and separated. The "other" remained at the corner,
Haldin took up a position a little farther up the street....
After throwing his "engine" he ran off and in a moment was overtaken
by the panic-struck people flying away from the spot after the second
explosion. They were wild with terror. He was jostled once or twice. He
slowed down for the rush to pass him and then turned to the left into a
narrow street. There he was alone.
He marvelled at this immediate escape. The work was done. He could
hardly believe it. He fought with an almost irresistible longing to lie
down on the pavement and sleep. But this sort of faintness--a drowsy
faintness--passed off quickly. He walked faster, making his way to one
of the poorer parts of the town in order to look up Ziemianitch.
This Ziemianitch, Razumov understood, was a sort of town-peasant who had
got on; owner of a small number of sledges and horses for hire. Haldin
paused in his narrative to exclaim--
"A bright spirit! A hardy soul! The best driver in St. Petersburg. He
has a team of three horses there.... Ah! He's a fellow!"
This man had declared himself willing to take out safely, at any time,
one or two persons to the second or third railway station on one of the
southern lines. But there had been no time to warn him the night before.
His usual haunt seemed to be a low-class eating-house on the outskirts
of the town. When Haldin got there the man was not to be found. He was
not expected to turn up again till the evening. Haldin wandered away
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
"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
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
"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
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.