He had drawn quite close to me; he looked like a madman—I have no doubt that, at that moment, he was one.
“I can’t!... I won’t!” I answered, drawing away. “She is the most sacred memory I have in my life. I hate to think of her with you. And that because you smirch everything you touch. I have no feeling of jealousy....”
“You? Jealousy!” he said, looking at me scornfully. “Why should you be jealous?”
“I loved her too,” I said.
He looked at me. In spite of myself the colour flooded my face. He looked at me from head to foot—my plainness, my miserable physique, my lameness, my feeble frame—everything was comprehended in the scorn of that glance.
“No,” I said, “you need not suppose that she ever realised. She did not. I would have died rather than have spoken of it. But I will not talk about her. I will not.”
He drew away from me. His face was grave; the mockery had left it.
“Oh, you English, how strange you are!... In trusting, yes.... But the things you miss! I understand now many things. I give up my desire. You shan’t smirch your precious memories.... And you, too, must understand that there has been all this time a link that has bound us.... Well, that link has snapped. I must go. Meanwhile, after I am gone, remember that there is more in life, Ivan Andreievitch, than you will ever understand. Who am I?... Rather ask, what am I? I am a Desire, a Purpose, a Pursuit—what you like. If another suffer for that I cannot help it, and if human nature is so weak, so stupid, it is right that it should suffer. But perhaps I am not myself at all, Ivan Andreievitch. Perhaps this is a ghost that you see.... What if the town has changed in the night and strange souls have slipped into our old bodies?
“Isn’t there a stir about the town? Is it I that pursue Nicholas, or is it my ghost that pursues myself? Is it Nicholas that I pursue? Is not Nicholas dead, and is it not my hope of release that I follow?... Don’t be so sure of your ground, Ivan Andreievitch. You know the proverb: ’There’s a secret city in every man’s heart. It is at that city’s altars that the true prayers are offered.’ There has been more than one Revolution in the last two months.”
He came up to me:
“Do not think too badly of me, Ivan Andreievitch, afterwards. I’m a haunted man, you know.”
He bent forward and kissed me on the lips. A moment later he was gone.
That Tuesday night poor young Bohun will remember to his grave—and beyond it, I expect.