“Yes, patriotic instincts developed by a faculty of independent thinking—of detached thinking. In that respect I am more free than any social democratic revolution could make me. It is more than probable that I don’t think exactly as you are thinking. Indeed, how could it be? You would think most likely at this moment that I am elaborately lying to cover up the track of my repentance.”
Razumov stopped. His heart had grown too big for his breast. Councillor Mikulin did not flinch.
“Why so?” he said simply. “I assisted personally at the search of your rooms. I looked through all the papers myself. I have been greatly impressed by a sort of political confession of faith. A very remarkable document. Now may I ask for what purpose....”
“To deceive the police naturally,” said Razumov savagely.... “What is all this mockery? Of course you can send me straight from this room to Siberia. That would be intelligible. To what is intelligible I can submit. But I protest against this comedy of persecution. The whole affair is becoming too comical altogether for my taste. A comedy of errors, phantoms, and suspicions. It’s positively indecent....”
Councillor Mikulin turned an attentive ear. “Did you say phantoms?” he murmured.
“I could walk over dozens of them.” Razumov, with an impatient wave of his hand, went on headlong, “But, really, I must claim the right to be done once for all with that man. And in order to accomplish this I shall take the liberty....”
Razumov on his side of the table bowed slightly to the seated bureaucrat.
“... To retire—simply to retire,” he finished with great resolution.
He walked to the door, thinking, “Now he must show his hand. He must ring and have me arrested before I am out of the building, or he must let me go. And either way....”
An unhurried voice said—
“Kirylo Sidorovitch.” Razumov at the door turned his head.
“To retire,” he repeated.
“Where to?” asked Councillor Mikulin softly.
In the conduct of an invented story there are, no doubt, certain proprieties to be observed for the sake of clearness and effect. A man of imagination, however inexperienced in the art of narrative, has his instinct to guide him in the choice of his words, and in the development of the action. A grain of talent excuses many mistakes. But this is not a work of imagination; I have no talent; my excuse for this undertaking lies not in its art, but in its artlessness. Aware of my limitations and strong in the sincerity of my purpose, I would not try (were I able) to invent anything. I push my scruples so far that I would not even invent a transition.
Dropping then Mr. Razumov’s record at the point where Councillor Mikulin’s question “Where to?” comes in with the force of an insoluble problem, I shall simply say that I made the acquaintance of these ladies about six months before that time. By “these ladies” I mean, of course, the mother and the sister of the unfortunate Haldin.