“I’ve been waiting for you, Barin,” he said in his hoarse musical voice.
“What is it?” I asked.
“This is where I live,” he said, and he showed me a very dirty piece of paper. “I think you ought to know.”
“Why?” I asked him.
“Kto snaiet? (who knows?) The Czar’s gone and we are all free men....”
I felt oddly that suddenly now he knew himself my master. That was now in his voice.
“What are you going to do with your freedom?” I asked.
“I shall have my duties now,” he said. “I’m not a free man at all. I obey orders for the first time. The people are going to rule. I am the people.”
He paused. Then he went on very seriously. “That is why, Barin, I give you that paper. I have friendly feelings towards you. I don’t know what it is, but I am your brother. They may come and want to rob your house. Show them that paper.”
“Thank you very much,” I said. “But I’m not afraid. There’s nothing I mind them stealing. All the same I’m very grateful.”
He went on very seriously.
“There’ll be no Czar now and no police. We will stop the war and all be rich.” He sighed. “But I don’t know that it will bring happiness.” He suddenly seemed to me forlorn and desolate and lonely, like a lost dog. I knew quite well that very soon, perhaps directly he had left me, he would plunder and murder and rob again.
But that night, the two of us alone on the island and everything so still, waiting for great events, I felt close to him and protective.
“Don’t get knocked on the head, Rat,” I said, “during one of your raids. Death is easily come by just now. Look after yourself.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “Shto boodet, boodet (what will be, will be). Neechevo (it’s of no importance).” He had vanished into the shadows.
I realise that the moment has come in my tale when the whole interest of my narrative centres in Markovitch. Markovitch is really the point of all my story as I have, throughout, subconsciously, recognised. The events of that wonderful Tuesday when for a brief instant the sun of freedom really did seem to all of us to break through the clouds, that one day in all our lives when hopes, dreams, Utopias, fairy tales seemed to be sober and realistic fact, those events might be seen through the eyes of any of us. Vera, Nina, Grogoff, Semyonov, Lawrence, Bohun and I, all shared in them and all had our sensations and experiences. But my own were drab and ordinary enough, and from the others I had no account so full and personal and true as from Markovitch. He told me all about that great day afterwards, only a short time before that catastrophe that overwhelmed us all, and in his account there was all the growing suspicion and horror of disillusion that after-events fostered