Neither of us understood. Miss Haldin turned round brusquely to her. “Who?”
“Herr Razumov,” she explained.
She had heard enough of our conversation before we left to know why her young mistress was going out. Therefore, when the gentleman gave his name at the door, she admitted him at once.
“No one could have foreseen that,” Miss Haldin murmured, with her serious grey eyes fixed upon mine. And, remembering the expression of the young man’s face seen not much more than four hours ago, the look of a haunted somnambulist, I wondered with a sort of awe.
“You asked my mother first?” Miss Haldin inquired of the maid.
“No. I announced the gentleman,” she answered, surprised at our troubled faces.
“Still,” I said in an undertone, “your mother was prepared.”
“Yes. But he has no idea....”
It seemed to me she doubted his tact. To her question how long the gentleman had been with her mother, the maid told us that Der Herr had been in the drawing-room no more than a short quarter of an hour.
She waited a moment, then withdrew, looking a little scared. Miss Haldin gazed at me in silence.
“As things have turned out,” I said, “you happen to know exactly what your brother’s friend has to tell your mother. And surely after that...”
“Yes,” said Natalia Haldin slowly. “I only wonder, as I was not here when he came, if it wouldn’t be better not to interrupt now.”
We remained silent, and I suppose we both strained our ears, but no sound reached us through the closed door. The features of Miss Haldin expressed a painful irresolution; she made a movement as if to go in, but checked herself. She had heard footsteps on the other side of the door. It came open, and Razumov, without pausing, stepped out into the ante-room. The fatigue of that day and the struggle with himself had changed him so much that I would have hesitated to recognize that face which, only a few hours before, when he brushed against me in front of the post office, had been startling enough but quite different. It had been not so livid then, and its eyes not so sombre. They certainly looked more sane now, but there was upon them the shadow of something consciously evil.
I speak of that, because, at first, their glance fell on me, though without any sort of recognition or even comprehension. I was simply in the line of his stare. I don’t know if he had heard the bell or expected to see anybody. He was going out, I believe, and I do not think that he saw Miss Haldin till she advanced towards him a step or two. He disregarded the hand she put out.
“It’s you, Natalia Victorovna.... Perhaps you are surprised...at this late hour. But, you see, I remembered our conversations in that garden. I thought really it was your wish that I should—without loss of time...so I came. No other reason. Simply to tell...”
He spoke with difficulty. I noticed that, and remembered his declaration to the man in the shop that he was going out because he “needed air.” If that was his object, then it was clear that he had miserably failed. With downcast eyes and lowered head he made an effort to pick up the strangled phrase.