“I have said all this to Prince K—–,” he began with assumed indifference, but lost it on seeing Councillor Mikulin’s slow nod of assent. “You know it? You’ve heard.... Then why should I be called here to be told of Haldin’s execution? Did you want to confront me with his silence now that the man is dead? What is his silence to me! This is incomprehensible. You want in some way to shake my moral balance.”
“No. Not that,” murmured Councillor Mikulin, just audibly. “The service you have rendered is appreciated....”
“Is it?” interrupted Razumov ironically.
“...and your position too.” Councillor Mikulin did not raise his voice. “But only think! You fall into Prince K—–’s study as if from the sky with your startling information.... You are studying yet, Mr. Razumov, but we are serving already—don’t forget that.... And naturally some curiosity was bound to....”
Councillor Mikulin looked down his beard. Razumov’s lips trembled.
“An occurrence of that sort marks a man,” the homely murmur went on. “I admit I was curious to see you. General T—– thought it would be useful, too.... Don’t think I am incapable of understanding your sentiments. When I was young like you I studied....”
“Yes—you wished to see me,” said Razumov in a tone of profound distaste. “Naturally you have the right—I mean the power. It all amounts to the same thing. But it is perfectly useless, if you were to look at me and listen to me for a year. I begin to think there is something about me which people don’t seem able to make out. It’s unfortunate. I imagine, however, that Prince K—– understands. He seemed to.”
Councillor Mikulin moved slightly and spoke.
“Prince K—– is aware of everything that is being done, and I don’t mind informing you that he approved my intention of becoming personally acquainted with you.”
Razumov concealed an immense disappointment under the accents of railing surprise.
“So he is curious too!... Well—after all, Prince K—– knows me very little. It is really very unfortunate for me, but—it is not exactly my fault.”
Councillor Mikulin raised a hasty deprecatory hand and inclined his head slightly over his shoulder.
“Now, Mr. Razumov—is it necessary to take it in that way? Everybody I am sure can....”
He glanced rapidly down his beard, and when he looked up again there was for a moment an interested expression in his misty gaze. Razumov discouraged it with a cold, repellent smile.
“No. That’s of no importance to be sure—except that in respect of all this curiosity being aroused by a very simple matter.... What is to be done with it? It is unappeasable. I mean to say there is nothing to appease it with. I happen to have been born a Russian with patriotic instincts—whether inherited or not I am not in a position to say.”
Razumov spoke consciously with elaborate steadiness.