I waited to be quite sure that he had finished, and then I said,
“That’s all as it may be, Alexei Petrovitch. It may be as you say. The point is, that I remain here.”
He got up from his chair. “You are determined on that?”
“I am determined,” I answered.
“Nothing will change you?”
“Then it is a battle between us?”
“If you like.”
“So be it.”
I helped him on with his Shuba. He said, in an ordinary conversational tone,
“There may be trouble to-morrow. There’s been shooting by the Nicholas Station this afternoon, I hear. I should avoid the Nevski to-morrow.”
I laughed. “I’m not afraid of that kind of death, Alexei Petrovitch,” I said.
“No,” he said, looking at me. “I will do you justice. You are not.”
He pulled his Shuba close about him.
“Good-night, Ivan Andreievitch,” he said. “It’s been a very pleasant talk.”
“Very,” I answered. “Good-night,”
After he had gone I drew back the blinds and let the moonlight flood the room.
I feel conscious, as I approach the centre of my story, that there is an appearance of uncertainty in the way that I pass from one character to another. I do not defend that uncertainty.
What I think I really feel now, on looking back, is that each of us—myself, Semyonov, Vera, Nina, Lawrence, Bohun, Grogoff, yes, and the Rat himself—was a part of a mysterious figure who was beyond us, outside us, and above us all. The heart, the lungs, the mouth, the eyes... used against our own human agency, and yet free within that domination for the exercise of our own free will. Have you never felt when you have been swept into the interaction of some group of persons that you were being employed as a part of a figure that without you would be incomplete? The figure is formed.... For an instant it remains, gigantic, splendid, towering above mankind, as a symbol, a warning, a judgement, an ideal, a threat. Dimly you recognise that you have played some part in the creation of that figure, and that living for a moment, as you have done, in some force outside your individuality, you have yet expressed that same individuality more nobly than any poor assertion of your own small lonely figure could afford. You have been used and now you are alone again.... You were caught up and united to your fellowmen. God appeared to you—not, as you had expected, in a vision cut off from the rest of the world, but in a revelation that you shared and that was only revealed because you were uniting with others. And yet your individuality was still there, strengthened, heightened, purified.
And the vision of the figure remains....