UNDER WESTERN EYES
by JOSEPH CONRAD
"I would take liberty from any hand as a hungry man would snatch
a piece of bread."
To begin with I wish to disclaim the possession of those high gifts
of imagination and expression which would have enabled my pen to
create for the reader the personality of the man who called himself,
after the Russian custom, Cyril son of Isidor--Kirylo Sidorovitch--
If I have ever had these gifts in any sort of
living form they have been smothered out of
existence a long time ago under a wilderness of
words. Words, as is well known, are the great
foes of reality. I have been for many years a
teacher of languages. It is an occupation which
at length becomes fatal to whatever share of
imagination, observation, and insight an
ordinary person may be heir to. To a teacher of
languages there comes a time when the world is
but a place of many words and man appears a mere
talking animal not much more wonderful than a
This being so, I could not have observed Mr.
Razumov or guessed at his reality by the force
of insight, much less have imagined him as he
was. Even to invent the mere bald facts of his
life would have been utterly beyond my powers.
But I think that without this declaration the
readers of these pages will be able to detect in
the story the marks of documentary evidence.
And that is perfectly correct. It is based on a
document; all I have brought to it is my
knowledge of the Russian language, which is
sufficient for what is attempted here. The
document, of course, is something in the nature
of a journal, a diary, yet not exactly that in
its actual form. For instance, most of it was
not written up from day to day, though all the
entries are dated. Some of these entries cover
months of time and extend over dozens of pages.
All the earlier part is a retrospect, in a
narrative form, relating to an event which took
place about a year before.
I must mention that I have lived for a long time
in Geneva. A whole quarter of that town, on
account of many Russians residing there, is
called La Petite Russie--Little Russia. I had a
rather extensive connexion in Little Russia at
that time. Yet I confess that I have no
comprehension of the Russian character. The
illogicality of their attitude, the
arbitrariness of their conclusions, the
frequency of the exceptional, should present no
difficulty to a student of many grammars; but
there must be something else in the way, some
special human trait--one of those subtle
differences that are beyond the ken of mere
professors. What must remain striking to a
teacher of languages is the Russians'
extraordinary love of words. They gather them
up; they cherish them, but they don't hoard them
in their breasts; on the contrary, they are
always ready to pour them out by the hour or by
the night with an enthusiasm, a sweeping
abundance, with such an aptness of application
sometimes that, as in the case of very
accomplished parrots, one can't defend oneself
from the suspicion that they really understand
what they say. There is a generosity in their
ardour of speech which removes it as far as
possible from common loquacity; and it is ever
too disconnected to be classed as eloquence. . .
. But I must apologize for this digression.
It would be idle to inquire why Mr. Razumov has
left this record behind him. It is
inconceivable that he should have wished any
human eye to see it. A mysterious impulse of
human nature comes into play here. Putting
aside Samuel Pepys, who has forced in this way
the door of immortality, innumerable people,
criminals, saints, philosophers, young girls,
statesmen, and simple imbeciles, have kept self-
revealing records from vanity no doubt, but also
from other more inscrutable motives. There must
be a wonderful soothing power in mere words
since so many men have used them for self-
communion. Being myself a quiet individual I
take it that what all men are really after is
some form or perhaps only some formula of peace.
Certainly they are crying loud enough for it at
the present day. What sort of peace Kirylo
Sidorovitch Razumov expected to find in the
writing up of his record it passeth my
understanding to guess.
The fact remains that he has written it.
Mr. Razumov was a tall, well-proportioned young
man, quite unusually dark for a Russian from the
Central Provinces. His good looks would have
been unquestionable if it had not been for a
peculiar lack of fineness in the features. It
was as if a face modelled vigorously in wax
(with some approach even to a classical
correctness of type) had been held close to a
fire till all sharpness of line had been lost in
the softening of the material. But even thus he
was sufficiently good-looking. His manner, too,
was good. In discussion he was easily swayed by
argument and authority. With his younger
compatriots he took the attitude of an
inscrutable listener, a listener of the kind
that hears you out intelligently and then--just
changes the subject.
This sort of trick, which may arise either from
intellectual insufficiency or from an imperfect
trust in one's own convictions, procured for Mr.
Razumov a reputation of profundity. Amongst a
lot of exuberant talkers, in the habit of
exhausting themselves daily by ardent
discussion, a comparatively taciturn personality
is naturally credited with reserve power. By
his comrades at the St. Petersburg University,
Kirylo Sidorovitch Razumov, third year's student
in philosophy, was looked upon as a strong
nature--an altogether trustworthy man. This, in
a country where an opinion may be a legal crime
visited by death or sometimes by a fate worse
than mere death, meant that he was worthy of
being trusted with forbidden opinions. He was
liked also for his amiability and for his quiet
readiness to oblige his comrades even at the
cost of personal inconvenience.
Mr. Razumov was supposed to be the son of an
Archpriest and to be protected by a
distinguished nobleman--perhaps of his own
distant province. But his outward appearance
accorded badly with such humble origin. Such a
descent was not credible. It was, indeed,
suggested that Mr. Razumov was the son of an
Archpriest's pretty daughter--which, of course,
would put a different complexion on the matter.
This theory also rendered intelligible the
protection of the distinguished nobleman. All
this, however, had never been investigated
maliciously or otherwise. No one knew or cared
who the nobleman in question was. Razumov
received a modest but very sufficient allowance
from the hands of an obscure attorney, who
seemed to act as his guardian in some measure.
Now and then he appeared at some professor's
informal reception. Apart from that Razumov was
not known to have any social relations in the
town. He attended the obligatory lectures
regularly and was considered by the authorities
as a very promising student. He worked at home
in the manner of a man who means to get on, but
did not shut himself up severely for that
purpose. He was always accessible, and there
was nothing secret or reserved in his life.
The origin of Mr. Razumov's record is connected
with an event characteristic of modern Russia in
the actual fact: the assassination of a
prominent statesman--and still more
characteristic of the moral corruption of an
oppressed society where the noblest aspirations
of humanity, the desire of freedom, an ardent
patriotism, the love of justice, the sense of
pity, and even the fidelity of simple minds are
prostituted to the lusts of hate and fear, the
inseparable companions of an uneasy despotism.
The fact alluded to above is the successful
attempt on the life of Mr. de P---, the
President of the notorious Repressive Commission
of some years ago, the Minister of State
invested with extraordinary powers. The
newspapers made noise enough about that
fanatical, narrow-chested figure in gold-laced
uniform, with a face of crumpled parchment,
insipid, bespectacled eyes, and the cross of the
Order of St. Procopius hung under the skinny
throat. For a time, it may be remembered, not a
month passed without his portrait appearing in
some one of the illustrated papers of Europe.
He served the monarchy by imprisoning, exiling,
or sending to the gallows men and women, young
and old, with an equable, unwearied industry.
In his mystic acceptance of the principle of
autocracy he was bent on extirpating from the
land every vestige of anything that resembled
freedom in public institutions; and in his
ruthless persecution of the rising generation he
seemed to aim at the destruction of the very
hope of liberty itself.
It is said that this execrated personality had
not enough imagination to be aware of the hate
he inspired. It is hardly credible; but it is a
fact that he took very few precautions for his
safety. In the preamble of a certain famous
State paper he had declared once that "the
thought of liberty has never existed in the Act
of the Creator. From the multitude of men's
counsel nothing could come but revolt and
disorder; and revolt and disorder in a world
created for obedience and stability is sin. It
was not Reason but Authority which expressed the
Divine Intention. God was the Autocrat of the
Universe. . . ." It may be that the man who
made this declaration believed that heaven
itself was bound to protect him in his
remorseless defence of Autocracy on this earth.
No doubt the vigilance of the police saved him
many times; but, as a matter of fact, when his
appointed fate overtook him, the competent
authorities could not have given him any
warning. They had no knowledge of any
conspiracy against the Minister's life, had no
hint of any plot through their usual channels of
information, had seen no signs, were aware of no
suspicious movements or dangerous persons.
Mr. de P--- was being driven towards the railway
station in a two-horse uncovered sleigh with
footman and coachman on the box. Snow had been
falling all night, making the roadway, uncleared
as yet at this early hour, very heavy for the
horses. It was still falling thickly. But the
sleigh must have been observed and marked down.
As it drew over to the left before taking a
turn, the footman noticed a peasant walking
slowly on the edge of the pavement with his
hands in the pockets of his sheepskin coat and
his shoulders hunched up to his ears under the
falling snow. On being overtaken this peasant
suddenly faced about and swung his arm. In an
instant there was a terrible shock, a detonation
muffled in the multitude of snowflakes; both
horses lay dead and mangled on the ground and
the coachman, with a shrill cry, had fallen off
the box mortally wounded. The footman (who
survived) had no time to see the face of the man
in the sheepskin coat. After throwing the bomb
this last got away, but it is supposed that,
seeing a lot of people surging up on all sides
of him in the falling snow, and all running
towards the scene of the explosion, he thought
it safer to turn back with them.
In an incredibly short time an excited crowd
assembled round the sledge. The Minister-
President, getting out unhurt into the deep
snow, stood near the groaning coachman and
addressed the people repeatedly in his weak,
colourless voice: "I beg of you to keep off:
For the love of God, I beg of you good people to
It was then that a tall young man who had
remained standing perfectly still within a
carriage gateway, two houses lower down, stepped
out into the street and walking up rapidly flung
another bomb over the heads of the crowd. It
actually struck the Minister-President on the
shoulder as he stooped over his dying servant,
then falling between his feet exploded with a
terrific concentrated violence, striking him
dead to the ground, finishing the wounded man
and practically annihilating the empty sledge in
the twinkling of an eye. With a yell of horror
the crowd broke up and fled in all directions,
except for those who fell dead or dying where
they stood nearest to the Minister-President,
and one or two others who did not fall till they
had run a little way.
The first explosion had brought together a crowd
as if by enchantment, the second made as swiftly
a solitude in the street for hundreds of yards
in each direction. Through the falling snow
people looked from afar at the small heap of
dead bodies lying upon each other near the
carcases of the two horses. Nobody dared to
approach till some Cossacks of a street-patrol
galloped up and, dismounting, began to turn over
the dead. Amongst the innocent victims of the
second explosion laid out on the pavement there
was a body dressed in a peasant's sheepskin
coat; but the face was unrecognisable, there was
absolutely nothing found in the pockets of its
poor clothing, and it was the only one whose
identity was never established.
That day Mr. Razumov got up at his usual hour
and spent the morning within the University
buildings listening to the lectures and working
for some time in the library. He heard the
first vague rumour of something in the way of
bomb-throwing at the table of the students'
ordinary, where he was accustomed to eat his two
o'clock dinner. But this rumour was made up of
mere whispers, and this was Russia, where it was
not always safe, for a student especially, to
appear too much interested in certain kinds of
whispers. Razumov was one of those men who,
living in a period of mental and political
unrest, keep an instinctive hold on normal,
practical, everyday life. He was aware of the
emotional tension of his time; he even responded
to it in an indefinite way. But his main
concern was with his work, his studies, and with
his own future.
Officially and in fact without a family (for the
daughter of the Archpriest had long been dead),
no home influences had shaped his opinions or
his feelings. He was as lonely in the world as
a man swimming in the deep sea. The word
Razumov was the mere label of a solitary
individuality. There were no Razumovs belonging
to him anywhere. His closest parentage was
defined in the statement that he was a Russian.
Whatever good he expected from life would be
given to or withheld from his hopes by that
connexion alone. This immense parentage
suffered from the throes of internal
dissensions, and he shrank mentally from the
fray as a good-natured man may shrink from
taking definite sides in a violent family
Razumov, going home, reflected that having
prepared all the matters of the forthcoming
examination, he could now devote his time to the
subject of the prize essay. He hankered after
the silver medal. The prize was offered by the
Ministry of Education; the names of the
competitors would be submitted to the Minister
himself. The mere fact of trying would be
considered meritorious in the higher quarters;
and the possessor of the prize would have a
claim to an administrative appointment of the
better sort after he had taken his degree. The
student Razumov in an access of elation forgot
the dangers menacing the stability of the
institutions which give rewards and
appointments. But remembering the medallist of
the year before, Razumov, the young man of no
parentage, was sobered. He and some others
happened to be assembled in their comrade's
rooms at the very time when that last received
the official advice of his success. He was a
quiet, unassuming young man: " Forgive me," he
had said with a faint apologetic smile and
taking up his cap, " I am going out to order up
some wine. But I must first send a telegram to
my folk at home. I say! Won't the old people
make it a festive time for the neighbours for
twenty miles around our place."
Razumov thought there was nothing of that sort
for him in the world. His success would matter
to no one. But he felt no bitterness against
the nobleman his protector, who was not a
provincial magnate as was generally supposed.
He was in fact nobody less than Prince K---,
once a great and splendid figure in the world
and now, his day being over, a Senator and a
gouty invalid, living in a still splendid but
more domestic manner. He had some young
children and a wife as aristocratic and proud as
In all his life Razumov was allowed only once to
come into personal contact with the Prince.
It had the air of a chance meeting in the little
attorney's office. One day Razumov, coming in
by appointment, found a stranger standing there--
a tall, aristocratic-looking Personage with
silky, grey sidewhiskers. The bald-headed, sly
little lawyer-fellow called out, "Come in--come
in, Mr. Razumov," with a sort of ironic
heartiness. Then turning deferentially to the
stranger with the grand air, "A ward of mine,
your, Excellency. One of the most promising
students of his faculty in the St. Petersburg
To his intense surprise Razumov saw a white
shapely hand extended to him. He took it in
great confusion (it was soft and passive) and
heard at the same time a condescending murmur in
which he caught only the words "Satisfactory"
and "Persevere." But the most amazing thing of
all was to feel suddenly a distinct pressure of
the white shapely hand just before it was
withdrawn: a light pressure like a secret sign.
The emotion of it was terrible. Razumov's heart
seemed to leap into his throat. When he raised
his eyes the aristocratic personage, motioning
the little lawyer aside, had opened the door and
was going out.
The attorney rummaged amongst the papers on his
desk for a time. "Do you know who that was?" he
Razumov, whose heart was thumping hard yet,
shook his head in silence.
"That was Prince K---. You wonder what he could
be doing in the hole of a poor legal rat like
myself--eh? These awfully great people have
their sentimental curiosities like common
sinners. But if I were you, Kirylo
Sidorovitch," he continued, leering and laying a
peculiar emphasis on the patronymic," I wouldn't
boast at large of the introduction. It would
not be prudent, Kirylo Sidorovitch. Oh dear no!
It would be in fact dangerous for your future."
The young man's ears burned like fire; his sight
was dim. "That man!" Razumov was saying to
Henceforth it was by this monosyllable that Mr.
Razumov got into the habit of referring mentally
to the stranger with grey silky side-whiskers.
>From that time too, when walking in the more
fashionable quarters, he noted with interest the
magnificent horses and carriages with Prince K---
's liveries on the box. Once he saw the
Princess get out--she was shopping--followed by
two girls, of which one was nearly a head taller
than the other. Their fair hair hung loose down
their backs in the English style; they had merry
eyes, their coats, muffs, and little fur caps
were exactly alike, and their cheeks and noses
were tinged a cheerful pink by the frost. They
crossed the pavement in front of him, and
Razumov went on his way smiling shyly to
himself. "His" daughters. They resembled
"Him." The young man felt a glow of warm
friendliness towards these girls who would never
know of his existence. Presently they would
marry Generals or Kammerherrs and have girls and
boys of their own, who perhaps would be aware of
him as a celebrated old professor, decorated,
possibly a Privy Councillor, one of the glories
of Russia--nothing more!
But a celebrated professor was a somebody.
Distinction would convert the label Razumov into
an honoured name. There was nothing strange in
the student Razumov's wish for distinction. A
man's real life is that accorded to him in the
thoughts of other men by reason of respect or
natural love. Returning home on the day of the
attempt on Mr. de P---'s life Razumov resolved
to have a good try for the silver medal.
Climbing slowly the four flights of the dark,
dirty staircase in the house where he had his
lodgings, he felt confident of success. The
winner's name would be published in the papers
on New Year's Day. And at the thought that "He"
would most probably read it there, Razumov
stopped short on the stairs for an instant, then
went on smiling faintly at his own emotion.
"This is but a shadow," he said to himself," but
the medal is a solid beginning."
With those ideas of industry in his head the
warmth of his room was agreeable and
encouraging. "I shall put in four hours of good
work," he thought. But no sooner had he closed
the door than he was horribly startled. All
black against the usual tall stove of white
tiles gleaming in the dusk, stood a strange
figure, wearing a skirted, close-fitting, brown
cloth coat strapped round the waist, in long
boots, and with a little Astrakhan cap on its
head. It loomed lithe and martial. Razumov was
utterly confounded. It was only when the figure
advancing two paces asked in an untroubled,
grave voice if the outer door was closed that he
regained his power of speech.
"Haldin!. . . Victor Victorovitch!. . . Is
that you? . . . Yes. The outer door is shut
all right. But this is indeed unexpected."
Victor Haldin, a student older than most of his
contemporaries at the University, was not one of
the industrious set. He was hardly ever seen at
lectures; the authorities had marked him as
"restless" and "unsound "--very bad notes. But
he had a great personal prestige with his
comrades and influenced their thoughts. Razumov
had never been intimate with him. They had met
from time to time at gatherings in other
students' houses. They had even had a
discussion together--one of those discussions on
first principles dear to the sanguine minds of
Razumov wished the man had chosen some other
time to come for a chat. He felt in good trim
to tackle the prize essay. But as Haldin could
not be slightingly dismissed Razumov adopted the
tone of hospitality, asking him to sit down and
"Kirylo Sidorovitch," said the other, flinging
off his cap, "we are not perhaps in exactly the
same camp. Your judgment is more philosophical.
You are a man of few words, but I haven't met
anybody who dared to doubt the generosity of
your sentiments. There is a solidity about your
character which cannot exist without courage."
Razumov felt flattered and began to murmur shyly
something about being very glad of his good
opinion, when Haldin raised his hand.
"That is what I was saying to myself," he
continued, "as I dodged in the woodyard down by
the river-side. 'He has a strong character this
young man,' I said to myself. 'He does not
throw his soul to the winds.' Your reserve has
always fascinated me, Kirylo Sidorovitch. So I
tried to remember your address. But look here--
it was a piece of luck. Your dvornik was away
from the gate talking to a sleigh-driver on the
other side of the street. I met no one on the
stairs, not a soul. As I came up to your floor
I caught sight of your landlady coming out of
your rooms. But she did not see me. She
crossed the landing to her own side, and then I
slipped in. I have been here two hours
expecting you to come in every moment."
Razumov had listened in astonishment; but before
he could open his mouth Haldin added, speaking
deliberately," It was I who removed de P---
this morning." Razumov kept down a cry of
dismay. The sentiment of his life being utterly
ruined by this contact with such a crime
expressed itself quaintly by a sort of half-
derisive mental exclamation, "There goes my
Haldin continued after waiting a while--
"You say nothing, Kirylo Sidorovitch! I
understand your silence. To be sure, I cannot
expect you with your frigid English manner to
embrace me. But never mind your manners. You
have enough heart to have heard the sound of
weeping and gnashing of teeth this man raised in
the land. That would be enough to get over any
philosophical hopes. He was uprooting the
tender plant. He had to be stopped. He was a
dangerous man--a convinced man. Three more
years of his work would have put us back fifty
years into bondage--and look at all the lives
wasted, at all the souls lost in that time."
His curt, self-confident voice suddenly lost its
ring and it was in a dull tone that he added,
"Yes, brother, I have killed him. It's weary
Razumov had sunk into a chair. Every moment he
expected a crowd of policemen to rush in. There
must have been thousands of them out looking for
that man walking up and down in his room.
Haldin was talking again in a restrained, steady
voice. Now and then he flourished an arm,
slowly, without excitement.
He told Razumov how he had brooded for a year;
how he had not slept properly for weeks. He and
"Another " had a warning of the Minister's
movements from "a certain person" late the
evening before. He and that "Another" prepared
their "engines" and resolved to have no sleep
till "the deed" was done. They walked the
streets under the falling snow with the
"engines" on them, exchanging not a word the
livelong night. When they happened to meet a
police patrol they took each other by the arm
and pretended to be a couple of peasants on the
spree. They reeled and talked in drunken hoarse
voices. Except for these strange outbreaks they
kept silence, moving on ceaselessly. Their
plans had been previously arranged. At daybreak
they made their way to the spot which they knew
the sledge must pass. When it appeared in sight
they exchanged a muttered good-bye and
separated. The "other" remained at the corner,
Haldin took up a position a little farther up
the street. . . .
After throwing his "engine" he ran off and in a
moment was overtaken by the panic-struck people
flying away from the spot after the second
explosion. They were wild with terror. He was
jostled once or twice. He slowed down for the
rush to pass him and then turned to the left
into a narrow street. There he was alone.
He marvelled at this immediate escape. The work
was done. He could hardly believe it. He
fought with an almost irresistible longing to
lie down on the pavement and sleep. But this
sort of faintness--a drowsy faintness--passed
off quickly. He walked faster, making his way
to one of the poorer parts of the town in order
to look up Ziemianitch.
This Ziemianitch, Razumov understood, was a sort
of town-peasant who had got on; owner of a small
number of sledges and horses for hire. Haldin
paused in his narrative to exclaim--
"A bright spirit ! A hardy soul! The best driver
in St. Petersburg. He has a team of three
horses there. . . . Ah! He's a fellow!"
This man had declared himself willing to take
out safely, at any time, one or two persons to
the second or third railway station on one of
the southern lines. But there had been no time
to warn him the night before. His usual haunt
seemed to be a low-class eating-house on the
outskirts of the town. When Haldin got there
the man was not to be found. He was not
expected to turn up again till the evening.
Haldin wandered away restlessly.
He saw the gate of a woodyard open and went in
to get out of the wind which swept the bleak
broad thoroughfare. The great rectangular piles
of cut wood loaded with snow resembled the huts
of a village. At first the watchman who
discovered him crouching amongst them talked in
a friendly manner. He was a dried-up old man
wearing two ragged army coats one over the
other; his wizened little face, tied up under
the jaw and over the ears in a dirty red
handkerchief, looked comical. Presently he grew
sulky, and then all at once without rhyme or
reason began to shout furiously.
"Aren't you ever going to clear out of this, you
loafer ? We know all about factory hands of
your sort. A big, strong, young chap! You
aren't even drunk. What do you want here? You
don't frighten us. Take yourself and your ugly
Haldin stopped before the sitting Razumov. His
supple figure, with the white forehead above
which the fair hair stood straight up, had an
aspect of lofty daring.
" He did not like my eyes," he said. "And so. .
.here I am."
Razumov made an effort to speak calmly.
"But pardon me, Victor Victorovitch. We know
each other so little. . . . I don't see why you
. . . ."
" Confidence," said Haldin.
This word sealed Razumov's lips as if a hand had
been clapped on his mouth. His brain seethed
"And so--here you are," he muttered through his
The other did not detect the tone of anger.
Never suspected it.
"Yes. And nobody knows I am here. You are the
last person that could be suspected--should I
get caught. That's an advantage, you see. And
then--speaking to a superior mind like yours I
can well say all the truth. It occurred to me
that you--you have no one belonging to you--no
ties, no one to suffer for it if this came out
by some means. There have been enough ruined
Russian homes as it is. But I don't see how my
passage through your rooms can be ever known.
If I should be got hold of, I'll know how to
keep silent--no matter what they may be pleased
to do to me," he added grimly.
He began to walk again while Razumov sat still
"You thought that--" he faltered out almost sick
"Yes, Razumov. Yes, brother. Some day you
shall help to build. You suppose that I am a
terrorist, now--a destructor of what is, But
consider that the true destroyers are they who
destroy the spirit of progress and truth, not
the avengers who merely kill the bodies of the
persecutors of human dignity. Men like me are
necessary to make room for self-contained,
thinking men like you. Well, we have made the
sacrifice of our lives, but all the same I want
to escape if it can be done. It is not my life
I want to save, but my power to do. I won't
live idle. Oh no! Don't make any mistake,
Razumov. Men like me are rare. And, besides,
an example like this is more awful to oppressors
when the perpetrator vanishes without a trace.
They sit in their offices and palaces and quake.
All I want you to do is to help me to vanish.
No great matter that. Only to go by and by and
see Ziemianitch for me at that place where I
went this morning. Just tell him, 'He whom you
know wants a well-horsed sledge to pull up half
an hour after midnight at the seventh lamp-post
on the left counting from the upper end of
Karabelnaya. If nobody gets in, the sledge is
to run round a block or two, so as to come back
past the same spot in ten minutes' time.' "
Razumov wondered why he had not cut short that
talk and told this man to go away long before.
Was it weakness or what?
He concluded that it was a sound instinct.
Haldin must have been seen. It was impossible
that some people should not have noticed the
face and appearance of the man who threw the
second bomb. Haldin was a noticeable person.
The police in their thousands must have had his
description within the hour. With every moment
the danger grew. Sent out to wander in the
streets he could not escape being caught in the
The police would very soon find out all about
him. They would set about discovering a
conspiracy. Everybody Haldin had ever known
would be in the greatest danger. Unguarded
expressions, little facts in themselves innocent
would be counted for crimes. Razumov remembered
certain words he said, the speeches he had
listened to, the harmless gatherings he had
attended--it was almost impossible for a student
to keep out of that sort of thing, without
becoming suspect to his comrades.
Razumov saw himself shut up in a fortress,
worried, badgered, perhaps ill-used. He saw
himself deported by an administrative order, his
life broken, ruined, and robbed of all hope. He
saw himself--at best--leading a miserable
existence under police supervision, in some
small, faraway provincial town, without friends
to assist his necessities or even take any steps
to alleviate his lot--as others had. Others had
fathers, mothers, brothers, relations,
connexions, to move heaven and earth on their
behalf--he had no one. The very officials that
sentenced him some morning would forget his
existence before sunset.
He saw his youth pass away from him in misery
and half starvation--his strength give way, his
mind become an abject thing. He saw himself
creeping, broken down and shabby, about the
streets--dying unattended in some filthy hole of
a room, or on the sordid bed of a Government
He shuddered. Then the peace of bitter calmness
came over him. It was best to keep this man out
of the streets till he could be got rid of with
some chance of escaping. That was the best that
could be done. Razumov, of course, felt the
safety of his lonely existence to be permanently
endangered. This evening's doings could turn up
against him at any time as long as this man
lived and the present institutions endured.
They appeared to him rational and indestructible
at that moment. They had a force of harmony--in
contrast with the horrible discord of this man's
presence. He hated the man. He said quietly--
"Yes, of course, I will go. 'You must give me
precise directions, and for the rest--depend on
"Ah! You are a fellow! Collected--cool as a
cucumber. A regular Englishman. Where did you
get your soul from? There aren't many like you.
Look here, brother! Men like me leave no
posterity, but their souls are not lost. No
man's soul is ever lost. It works for itself--
or else where would be the sense of self-
sacrifice, of martyrdom, of conviction, of faith-
-the labours of the soul? What will become of
my soul when I die in the way I must die--soon--
very soon perhaps? It shall not perish. Don't
make a mistake, Razumov. This is not murder--it
is war, war. My spirit shall go on warring in
some Russian body till all falsehood is swept
out of the world. The modern civilization is
false, but a new revelation shall come out of
Russia. Ha! you say nothing. You are a
sceptic. I respect your philosophical
scepticism, Razumov, but don't touch the soul.
The Russian soul that lives in all of us. It
has a future. It has a mission, I tell you, or
else why should I have been moved to do this--
reckless--like a butcher--in the middle of all
these innocent people--scattering death--I! I!
. . . I wouldn't hurt a fly!"
"Not so loud," warned Razumov harshly.
Haldin sat down abruptly, and leaning his head
on his folded arms burst into tears. He wept
for a long time. The dusk had deepened in the
room. Razumov, motionless in sombre wonder,
listened to the sobs.
The other raised his head, got up and with an
effort mastered his voice.
"Yes. Men like me leave no posterity," he
repeated in a subdued tone." I have a sister
though. She's with my old mother--I persuaded
them to go abroad this year--thank God. Not a
bad little girl my sister. She has the most
trustful eyes of any human being that ever
walked this earth. She will marry well, I hope.
She may have children--sons perhaps. Look at
me. My father was a Government official in the
provinces, He had a little land too. A simple
servant of God--a true Russian in his way. His
was the soul of obedience. But I am not like
him. They say I resemble my mother's eldest
brother, an officer. They shot him in '28.
Under Nicholas, you know. Haven't I told you
that this is war, war. . . . But God of
Justice! This is weary work."
Razumov, in his chair, leaning his head on his
hand, spoke as if from the bottom of an abyss.
"You believe in God, Haldin? "
"There you go catching at words that are wrung
from one. What does it matter? What was it the
Englishman said: 'There is a divine soul in
things . . . ' Devil take him--I don't remember
now. But he spoke the truth. When the day of
you thinkers comes don't you forget what's
divine in the Russian soul--and that's
resignation. Respect that in your intellectual
restlessness and don't let your arrogant wisdom
spoil its message to the world. I am speaking
to you now like a man with a rope round his
neck. What do you imagine I am? A being in
revolt? No. It's you thinkers who are in
everlasting revolt. I am one of the resigned.
When the necessity of this heavy work came to me
and I understood that it had to be done--what
did I do? Did I exult? Did I take pride in my
purpose? Did I try to weigh its worth and
consequences? No! I was resigned. I thought
'God's will be done.'"
He threw himself full length on Razumov's bed
and putting the backs of his hands over his eyes
remained perfectly motionless and silent. Not
even the sound of his breathing could be heard.
The dead stillness or the room remained
undisturbed till in the darkness Razumov said
"Yes," answered the other readily, quite
invisible now on the bed and without the
"Isn't it time for me to start?"
"Yes, brother." The other was heard, lying
still in the darkness as though he were talking
in his sleep. "The time has come to put fate to
He paused, then gave a few lucid directions in
the quiet impersonal voice of a man in a trance.
Razumov made ready without a word of answer.
As he was leaving the room the voice on the bed
said after him--
"Go with God, thou silent soul."
On the landing, moving softly, Razumov locked
the door and put the key in his pocket.