I can’t tell you precisely where I went; I only know it was somewhere in Buckinghamshire, and that, ordering the car to await me a dozen miles farther on, I set out to walk. Nor can I tell you what I saw during that walk; I don’t think I saw anything. There was a red wintry disc of a sun, I remember, and a land grey with rime; and that is all. I was entirely occupied with the attempt I was about to make. I think that even then I had the sense of doom, for I know not how otherwise I should have found myself several times making little husbandings of my force, as if conscious that I should need it all. For I was determined, as never in my life have I been determined, to write that “Life.” And I intended, not to wait to be challenged, but to challenge.... I met the car, returning in search of me; and I dined at a restaurant, went home to bed, and slept dreamlessly.
On the morrow I deliberately refrained from work until the evening. My challenge to Andriaovsky and the Powers he represented should be boldly delivered at the very gates of their own Hour. Not until half-past eight, with the curtains drawn, the doors locked, and orders given that on no account whatever was I to be disturbed, did I switch on the pearly light, place Andriaovsky’s portrait in its now accustomed place, and draw my chair up to my writing-table.
But before I could resume the “Life” at the point at which I had left it, I felt that there were certain preliminaries to be settled. It was not that I wished to sound a parley with any view of coming to terms; I had determined what the terms were to be. As a boxer who leaps from his corner the moment the signal is given, astounding with suddenness his less prompt antagonist, so I should be ready when the moment came. But I wished the issue to be defined. I did not propose to submit the whole of my manhood to the trial. I was merely asserting my right to speak of certain things which, if one chose to exaggerate their importance by a too narrow and exclusive consideration of them, I might conceivably be thought to have betrayed.
I drew a sheet of paper towards me, and formally made out my claim. It occupied not more than a dozen lines, and its nature has already been sufficiently indicated. I put my pen down again, leaned back in my chair, and waited.
I waited, but nothing happened. It seemed that if this was my attempt to justify myself, the plea was certainly not disallowed. But neither had I any sign that it was allowed; and presently it occurred to me that possibly I had couched it in terms too general. Perhaps a more particular claim would meet with a different reception.
During the earlier stages of the book’s progress I had many times deliberated on the desirability of a Preface that should state succinctly what I considered to be my qualifications for the task. Though I had finally decided against any such statement, the form of the Preface might nevertheless serve for the present occasion. I took another sheet of paper, headed it “Preface,” and began once more to write.