As far as I can tell, Councillor Mikulin did not answer that question. He drew Mr. Razumov into familiar conversation. It is the peculiarity of Russian natures that, however strongly engaged in the drama of action, they are still turning their ear to the murmur of abstract ideas. This conversation (and others later on) need not be recorded. Suffice it to say that it brought Mr. Razumov as we know him to the test of another faith. There was nothing official in its expression, and Mr. Razumov was led to defend his attitude of detachment. But Councillor Mikulin would have none of his arguments. “For a man like you,” were his last weighty words in the discussion, “such a position is impossible. Don’t forget that I have seen that interesting piece of paper. I understand your liberalism. I have an intellect of that kind myself. Reform for me is mainly a question of method. But the principle of revolt is a physical intoxication, a sort of hysteria which must be kept away from the masses. You agree to this without reserve, don’t you? Because, you see, Kirylo Sidorovitch, abstention, reserve, in certain situations, come very near to political crime. The ancient Greeks understood that very well.”
Mr. Razumov, listening with a faint smile, asked Councillor Mikulin point-blank if this meant that he was going to have him watched.
The high official took no offence at the cynical inquiry.
“No, Kirylo Sidorovitch,” he answered gravely. “I don’t mean to have you watched.”
Razumov, suspecting a lie, affected yet the greatest liberty of mind during the short remainder of that interview. The older man expressed himself throughout in familiar terms, and with a sort of shrewd simplicity. Razumov concluded that to get to the bottom of that mind was an impossible feat. A great disquiet made his heart beat quicker. The high official, issuing from behind the desk, was actually offering to shake hands with him.
“Good-bye, Mr Razumov. An understanding between intelligent men is always a satisfactory occurrence. Is it not? And, of course, these rebel gentlemen have not the monopoly of intelligence.”
“I presume that I shall not be wanted any more?” Razumov brought out that question while his hand was still being grasped. Councillor Mikulin released it slowly.
“That, Mr. Razumov,” he said with great earnestness, “is as it may be. God alone knows the future. But you may rest assured that I never thought of having you watched. You are a young man of great independence. Yes. You are going away free as air, but you shall end by coming back to us.”
“I! I!” Razumov exclaimed in an appalled murmur of protest. “What for?” he added feebly.
“Yes! You yourself, Kirylo Sidorovitch,” the high police functionary insisted in a low, severe tone of conviction. “You shall be coming back to us. Some of our greatest minds had to do that in the end.”