The Secret City eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 480 pages of information about The Secret City.

“I will look after you then, Barin,” he answered me, “so that no one shall touch you.”  I thanked him.  He was greatly amused by my Russian accent, although he had no interest in the fact that I was English, nor did he want to hear in the least about London or any foreign town.  Marfa, my old servant, was, of course, horrified at this acquaintanceship of mine, and warned me that it would mean both my death and hers.  He liked to tease and frighten her, but he was never rude to her and offered sometimes to help her with her work, an offer that she always indignantly refused.  He had some children, he told me, but he did not know where they were.  He tried to respect my hospitality, never bringing any friends of his with him, and only once coming when he was the worse for drink.  On that occasion he cried and endeavoured to embrace me.  He apologised for this the next day.

They would try to take him soon, he supposed, for a soldier, but he thought that he would be able to escape.  He hated the Police, and would murder them all if he could.  He told me great tales of their cruelty, and he cursed them most bitterly.  I pointed out to him that society must be protected, but he did not see why this need be so.  It was, he thought, wrong that some people had so much and others so little, but this was as far as his social investigations penetrated.

He was really distressed by my illness.  Marfa told me that one day when I was delirious he cried.  At the same time he pointed out to her that, if I died, certain things in my rooms would be his.  He liked a silver cigarette case of mine, and my watch chain, and a signet ring that I wore.  I saw him vaguely, an uncertain shadow in the mists of the first days of my fever.  I was not, I suppose, in actual fact, seriously ill, and yet I abandoned myself to my fate, allowing myself to slip without the slightest attempt at resistance, along the easiest way, towards death or idiocy or paralysis, towards anything that meant the indifferent passivity of inaction.  I had bad, confused dreams.  The silence irritated me.  I fancied to myself that the sea ought to make some sound, that it was holding itself deliberately quiescent in preparation for some event.  I remember that Marfa and the doctor prevented me from rising to look from my window that I might see why the sea was not roaring.  Some one said to me in my dreams something about “Ice,” and again and again I repeated the word to myself as though it were intensely significant.  “Ice!  Ice!  Ice!...  Yes, that was what I wanted to know!” My idea from this was that the floor upon which I rested was exceedingly thin, made only of paper in fact, and that at any moment it might give way and precipitate me upon the ice.  This terrified me, and the way that the cold blew up through the cracks in the floor was disturbing enough.  I knew that my doctor thought me mad to remain in such a place.  But above all I was overwhelmed by the figure of Semyonov.  He haunted me in all my dreams, his presence never left me for a single instant.  I could not be sure whether he were in the room or no, but certainly he was close to me... watching me, sneering at me as he had so often done before.

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The Secret City from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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