Bohun, with an air of rather gentle surprise, as though he could not help thinking it strange that any one should take an interest in Lawrence’s movements, told me where he was lodging.
“And I hope you also will find your way to me sometime,”
I added. “It’s an out-of-place grimy spot, I’m afraid. You might bring Lawrence round one evening.”
Soon after that, feeling that I could do no more towards retrieving an evening definitely lost, I departed. At the last I caught Markovitch’s eye. He seemed to be watching for something. A new invention perhaps. He was certainly an unhappy man.
I was to meet Jerry Lawrence sooner than I had expected. And it was in this way.
Two days after the evening that I have just described I was driven to go and see Vera Michailovna. I was driven, partly by my curiosity, partly by my depression, and partly by my loneliness. This same loneliness was, I believe, at this time beginning to affect us all. I should be considered perhaps to be speaking with exaggeration if I were to borrow the title of one of Mrs. Oliphant’s old-fashioned and charming novels and to speak of Petrograd as already “A Beleaguered City”—beleaguered, moreover, in very much the same sense as that other old city was. From the very beginning of the war Petrograd was isolated—isolated not by the facts of the war, its geographical position or any of the obvious causes, but simply by the contempt and hatred with which it was regarded. From very old days it was spoken of as a German town. “If you want to know Russia don’t go to Petrograd.” “Simply a cosmopolitan town like any other.” “A smaller Berlin”—and so on, and so on. This sense of outside contempt influenced its own attitude to the world. It was always at war with Moscow. It showed you when you first arrived its Nevski, its ordered squares, its official buildings as though it would say: “I suppose you will take the same view as the rest. If you don’t wish to look any deeper here you are. I’m not going to help you.”
As the war developed it lost whatever gaiety and humour it had. After the fall of Warsaw the attitude of the Russian people in general became fatalistic. Much nonsense was talked in the foreign press about “Russia coming back again and again.” “Russia, the harder she was pressed the harder she resisted,” and the ghost of Napoleon retreating from Moscow was presented to every home in Europe; but the plain truth was that, after Warsaw, the temper of the people changed. Things were going wrong once more as they had always gone wrong in Russian history, and as they always would go wrong. Then followed bewilderment. What to do? Whose fault was it all? Shall we blame our blood or our rulers? Our rulers, certainly, as we always, with justice, have blamed them—our blood, too, perhaps. From the fall of Warsaw, in spite of momentary flashes of splendour and courage, the