He went to the window and stood there with slightly bent head on the watch for the faint sound. “I will stay here till I hear something,” he said to himself. He stood still, his ear turned to the panes. An atrocious aching numbness with shooting pains in his back and legs tortured him. He did not budge. His mind hovered on the borders of delirium. He heard himself suddenly saying, “I confess,” as a person might do on the rack. “I am on the rack,” he thought. He felt ready to swoon. The faint deep boom of the distant clock seemed to explode in his head—he heard it so clearly.... One!
If Haldin had not turned up the police would have been already here ransacking the house. No sound reached him. This time it was done.
He dragged himself painfully to the table and dropped into the chair. He flung the book away and took a square sheet of paper. It was like the pile of sheets covered with his neat minute handwriting, only blank. He took a pen brusquely and dipped it with a vague notion of going on with the writing of his essay—but his pen remained poised over the sheet. It hung there for some time before it came down and formed long scrawly letters.
Still-faced and his lips set hard, Razumov began to write. When he wrote a large hand his neat writing lost its character altogether—became unsteady, almost childish. He wrote five lines one under the other. History not Theory. Patriotism not Internationalism. Evolution not Revolution. Direction not Destruction. Unity not Disruption.
He gazed at them dully. Then his eyes strayed to the bed and remained fixed there for a good many minutes, while his right hand groped all over the table for the penknife.
He rose at last, and walking up with measured steps stabbed the paper with the penknife to the lath and plaster wall at the head of the bed. This done he stepped back a pace and flourished his hand with a glance round the room.
After that he never looked again at the bed. He took his big cloak down from its peg and, wrapping himself up closely, went to lie down on the hard horse-hair sofa at the other side of his room. A leaden sleep closed his eyelids at once. Several times that night he woke up shivering from a dream of walking through drifts of snow in a Russia where he was as completely alone as any betrayed autocrat could be; an immense, wintry Russia which, somehow, his view could embrace in all its enormous expanse as if it were a map. But after each shuddering start his heavy eyelids fell over his glazed eyes and he slept again.
Approaching this part of Mr. Razumov’s story, my mind, the decent mind of an old teacher of languages, feels more and more the difficulty of the task.
The task is not in truth the writing in the narrative form a precis of a strange human document, but the rendering—I perceive it now clearly—of the moral conditions ruling over a large portion of this earth’s surface; conditions not easily to be understood, much less discovered in the limits of a story, till some key-word is found; a word that could stand at the back of all the words covering the pages; a word which, if not truth itself, may perchance hold truth enough to help the moral discovery which should be the object of every tale.