“So much for your sentimental Russia,” said Semyonov. He spoke very quietly. “How I shall love to see these fools all toppled over, and then the fools who toppled them toppled in their turn.
“Durward, you’re a fool too, but you’re English, and at least you’ve got a conscience. I tell you, you’ll see in these next months such cowardice, such selfishness, such meanness, such ignorance as the world has never known—and all in the name of Freedom! Why, they’re chattering about freedom already downstairs as hard as they can go!”
“As usual, Semyonov,” I answered hotly, “you believe in the good of no one. If there’s really a Revolution coming, which I still doubt, it may lead to the noblest liberation.”
“Oh, you’re an ass!” he interrupted quietly. “Nobility and the human race! I tell you, Ivan Andreievitch of the noble character, that the human race is rotten; that it is composed of selfishness, vice, and meanness; that it is hypocritical beyond the bounds of hypocrisy, and that of all mean cowardly nations on this earth the Russian nation is the meanest and most cowardly!... That fine talk of ours that you English slobber over!—a mere excuse for idleness, and you’ll know it before another year is through. I despise mankind with a contempt that every day’s fresh experience only the more justifies. Only once have I found some one who had a great soul, and she, too, if I had secured her, might have disappointed me.... No, my time is coming. I shall see at last my fellowmen in their true colours, and I shall even perhaps help them to display them. My worthy Markovitch, for example—”
“What about Markovitch?” I asked sharply.
He got up, smiling. He put his hand on my shoulder.
“He shall be driven by ghosts,” he answered, and turned off to the stairs.
He looked back for a moment. “The funny thing is, I like you, Durward,” he said.
I remember very little of my return to my island that night. The world was horribly dark and cold, the red moon had gone, and a machine-gun pursued me all the way home like a barking dog. I crossed the bridge frankly with nerves so harassed, with so many private anxieties and so much public apprehension, with so overpowering a suspicion that every shadow held a rifle that my heart leapt in my breast, and I was suddenly sick with fear when some one stepped across the road and put his hand on my arm. You see I have nothing much to boast about myself. My relief was only slightly modified when I saw that it was the Rat. The Rat had changed! He stood, as though on purpose under the very faint grey light of the lamp at the end of the bridge, and seen thus, he did in truth seem like an apparition. He was excited of course, but there was more in his face than that. The real truth about him was, that he was filled with some determination, some purpose. He was like a child who is playing at being a burglar, his face had exactly that absorption, that obsessing pre-occupation.