Every mixture of blood and race that the world contains is to be seen here, but they are all—Tartars, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Arabs, Moslem, and Christian—formed by some subtle colour of atmosphere, so that they seem all alike to be citizens of some secret little town, sprung to life just for a day, in the heart of this other city. Perhaps it is the dull pale mist that the glass flings down, perhaps it is the uncleanly dust-clogged air; whatever it be, there is a stain of grey shadowy smoke upon all this world, and Ikons and shabby jewels, and piles of Eastern clothes, and old brass pots, and silver, hilted swords, and golden-tasselled Tartar coats gleam through the shadow and wink and stare.
To-day the arcades were so crowded that I could scarcely move, and the noise was deafening.
Many soldiers were there, looking with indulgent amusement upon the scene, and the Jews with their skull-caps and the fat, huge-breasted Jewish women screamed and shrieked and waved their arms like boughs in a storm. I stopped at many shops and fingered the cheap silver toys, the little blue and green Ikons, the buckles and beads and rosaries that thronged the trays, but I could not find anything for Nina. Then suddenly I saw a square box of mother-of-pearl and silver, so charming and simple, the figures on the silver lid so gracefully carved that I decided at once.
The Jew in charge of it wanted twice as much as I was ready to give, and we argued for ten minutes before a kindly and appreciative crowd. At last we arranged a compromise, and I moved away, pleased and satisfied. I stepped out of the arcade and faced the little Square. It was, at that instant, fantastic and oddly coloured; the sun, about to set, hung in the misty sky a perfect round crimson globe, and it was perched, almost maliciously, just above the tower of the little church.
The rest of the world was grey. The Square was a thick mass of human beings so tightly wedged together that it seemed to move backwards and forwards like a floor of black wood pushed by a lever. One lamp burnt behind the window of the church, the old houses leaned forward as though listening to the babel below their eaves.
But it was the sun that seemed to me then so evil and secret and cunning. Its deep red was aloof and menacing, and its outline so sharp that it was detached from the sky as though it were human, and would presently move and advance towards us. I don’t know what there was in that crowd of struggling human beings and that detached red sun.... The air was cruel, and through all the arcades that seemed to run like veins to this heart of the place I could feel the cold and the dark and the smoky dusk creeping forward to veil us all with deepest night.
I turned away and then saw, advancing towards me, as though he had just come from the church, pushing his way, and waving a friendly hand to me, Semyonov.