during that day Virginsky had spent two hours in running round to see the members of the quintet and to inform them that Shatov would certainly not give information, because his wife had come back and given birth to a child, and no one “who knew anything of human nature “could suppose that Shatov could be a danger at this moment. But to his discomfiture he found none of them at home except Erkel and Lyamshin. Erkel listened in silence, looking candidly into his eyes, and in answer to the direct question “Would he go at six o'clock or not?” he replied with the brightest of smiles that “of course he would go.”
Lyamshin was in bed, seriously ill, as it seemed, with his head covered with a quilt. He was alarmed at Virginsky's coming in, and as soon as the latter began speaking he waved him off from under the bedclothes, entreating him to let him alone. He listened to all he said about Shatov, however, and seemed for some reason extremely struck by the news that Virginsky had found no one at home. It seemed that Lyamshin knew already (through Liputin) of Fedka's death, and hurriedly and incoherently told Virginsky about it, at which the latter seemed struck in his turn. To Virginsky's direct question, “Should they go or not?” he began suddenly waving his hands again, entreating him to let him alone, and saying that it was not his business, and that he knew nothing about it.
Virginsky returned home dejected and greatly alarmed. It weighed upon him that he had to hide it from his family; he was accustomed to tell his wife everything; and if his feverish brain had not hatched a new idea at that moment, a new plan of conciliation for further action, he might have taken to his bed like Lyamshin. But this new idea sustained him; what's more, he began impatiently awaiting the hour fixed, and set off for the appointed spot earlier than was necessary. It was a very gloomy place at the end of the huge park. I went there afterwards on purpose to look at it. How sinister it must have looked on that chill autumn evening! It was at the edge of an old wood belonging to the Crown. Huge ancient pines stood out as vague sombre blurs in the darkness. It was so dark that they could hardly see each other two paces off, but Pyotr Stepanovitch, Liputin, and afterwards Erkel, brought lanterns with them. At some unrecorded date in the past a rather absurd-looking grotto had for some reason been built here of rough unhewn stones. The table and benches in the grotto had long ago decayed and fallen. Two hundred paces to the right was the bank of the third pond of the park. These three ponds stretched one after another for a mile from the house to the very end of the park. One could scarcely imagine that any noise, a scream, or even a shot, could reach the inhabitants of the Stavrogins' deserted house. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch's departure the previous day and Alexey Yegorytch's absence left only five or six people in the house, all more or less invalided, so to speak. In any case it might be assumed with perfect confidence that if cries or shouts for help were heard by any of the inhabitants of the isolated house they would only have excited terror; no one would have moved from his warm stove or snug shelf to give assistance.
By twenty past six almost all of them except Erkel, who had been told off to fetch Shatov, had turned up at the trysting-place. This time Pyotr Stepanovitch was not late; he came with Tolkatchenko. Tolkatchenko looked frowning and anxious; all his assumed determination and insolent bravado had vanished. He scarcely left Pyotr Stepanovitch's side, and seemed to have become all at once immensely devoted to him. He was continually thrusting himself forward to whisper fussily to him, but the latter scarcely answered him, or muttered something irritably to get rid of him.
Shigalov and Virginsky had arrived rather before Pyotr Stepanovitch, and as soon as he came they drew a little apart in profound and obviously intentional silence. Pyotr Stepanovitch raised his lantern and examined them with unceremonious and insulting minuteness. “They mean to speak,” flashed through his mind.
“Isn't Lyamshin here?” he asked Virginsky. “Who said he was ill?”
“I am here,” responded Lyamshin, suddenly coming from behind a tree. He was in a warm greatcoat and thickly muffled in a rug, so that it was difficult to make out his face even with a lantern.
“So Liputin is the only one not here?”
Liputin too came out of the grotto without speaking. Pyotr Stepanovitch raised the lantern again.
“Why were you hiding in there? Why didn't you come out?”
“I imagine we still keep the right of freedom . . . of our actions,” Liputin muttered, though probably he hardly knew what he wanted to express.
“Gentlemen,” said Pyotr Stepanovitch, raising his voice for the first time above a whisper, which produced an effect, “I think you fully understand that it's useless to go over things again. Everything was said and fully thrashed out yesterday, openly and directly. But perhaps — as I see from your faces — some one wants to make some statement; in that case I beg you to make haste. Damn it all! there's not much time, and Erkel may bring him in a minute. . . . ”
“He is sure to bring him,” Tolkatchenko put in for some reason.
“If I am not mistaken, the printing press will be handed over, to begin with?” inquired Liputin, though again he seemed hardly to understand why he asked the question.
“Of course. Why should we lose it?” said Pyotr Stepanovitch, lifting the lantern to his face. “But, you see, we all agreed yesterday that it was not really necessary to take it. He need only show you the exact spot where it's buried; we can dig it up afterwards for ourselves. I know that it's somewhere ten paces from a corner of this grotto. But, damn it all! how could you have forgotten, Liputin? It was agreed that you should meet him alone and that we should come out afterwards. . . . It's strange that you should ask — or didn't you mean what you said?”
Liputin kept gloomily silent. All were silent. The wind shook the tops of the pine-trees.
“I trust, however, gentlemen, that every one will do his duty,” Pyotr Stepanovitch rapped out impatiently.
“I know that Shatov's wife has come back and has given birth to a child,” Virginsky said suddenly, excited and gesticulating and scarcely able to speak distinctly. “Knowing what human nature is, we can be sure that now he won't give information . . . because he is happy. . . . So I went to every one this morning and found no one at home, so perhaps now nothing need be done . . . .”
He stopped short with a catch in his breath.
“If you suddenly became happy, Mr. Virginsky,” said Pyotr Stepanovitch, stepping up to him, “would you abandon — not giving information; there's no question of that — but any perilous public action which you had planned before you were happy and which you regarded as a duty and obligation in spite of the risk and loss of happiness?”
“No, I wouldn't abandon it! I wouldn't on any account!” said Virginsky with absurd warmth, twitching all over.
“You would rather be unhappy again than be a scoundrel?”
“Yes, yes. . . . Quite the contrary. . . . I'd rather be a complete scoundrel . . . that is no . . . not a scoundrel at all, but on the contrary completely unhappy rather than a scoundrel.”
“Well then, let me tell you that Shatov looks on this betrayal as a public duty. It's his most cherished conviction, and the proof of it is that he runs some risk himself; though, of course, they will pardon him a great deal for giving information. A man like that will never give up the idea. No sort of happiness would overcome him. In another day he'll go back on it, reproach himself, and will go straight to the police. What's more, I don't see any happiness in the fact that his wife has come back after three years' absence to bear him a child of Stavrogin's.”
“But no one has seen Shatov's letter,” Shigalov brought out all at once, emphatically.
“I've seen it,” cried Pyotr Stepanovitch. “It exists, and all this is awfully stupid, gentlemen.”
“And I protest . . .” Virginsky cried, boiling over suddenly: “I protest with all my might. . . . I want . . . this is what I want. I suggest that when he arrives we all come out and question him, and if it's true, we induce him to repent of it; and if he gives us his word of honour, let him go. In any case we must have a trial; it must be done after trial. We mustn't lie in wait for him and then fall upon him.”
“Risk the cause on his word of honour — that's the acme of stupidity! Damnation, how stupid it all is now, gentlemen! And a pretty part you are choosing to play at the moment of danger!”
“I protest, I protest!” Virginsky persisted.
“Don't bawl, anyway; we shan't hear the signal. Shatov, gentlemen. . . . (Damnation, how stupid this is now!) I've told you already that Shatov is a Slavophil, that is, one of the stupidest set of people. . . . But, damn it all, never mind, that's no matter! You put me out! . . . Shatov is an embittered man, gentlemen, and since he has belonged to the party, anyway, whether he wanted to or no, I had hoped till the last minute that he might have been of service to the cause and might have been made use of as an embittered man. I spared him and was keeping him in reserve, in spite of most exact instructions. . . . I've spared him a hundred times more than he deserved! But he's ended by betraying us. . . . But, hang it all, I don't care! You'd better try running away now, any of you! No one of you has the right to give up the job! You can kiss him if you like, but you haven't the right to stake the cause on his word of honour! That's acting like swine and spies in government pay!”
“Who's a spy in government pay here?” Liputin filtered out.
“You, perhaps. You'd better hold your tongue, Liputin; you talk for the sake of talking, as you always do. All men are spies, gentlemen, who funk their duty at the moment of danger. There will always be some fools who'll run in a panic at the last moment and cry out, 'Aie, forgive me, and I'll give them all away!' But let me tell you, gentlemen, no betrayal would win you a pardon now. Even if your sentence were mitigated it would mean Siberia; and, what's more, there's no escaping the weapons of the other side — and their weapons are sharper than the government's.”
Pyotr Stepanovitch was furious and said more than he meant to. With a resolute air Shigalov took three steps towards him. “Since yesterday evening I've thought over the question,” he began, speaking with his usual pedantry and assurance. (I believe that if the earth had given way under his feet he would not have raised his voice nor have varied one tone in his methodical exposition.) “Thinking the matter over, I've come to the conclusion that the projected murder is not merely a waste of precious time which might be employed in a more suitable and befitting manner, but presents, moreover, that deplorable deviation from the normal method which has always been' most prejudicial to the cause and has delayed its triumph for scores of years, under the guidance of shallow thinkers and pre-eminently of men of political instead of purely socialistic leanings. I have come here solely to protest against the projected enterprise, for the general edification, intending then to withdraw at the actual moment, which you, for some reason I don't understand, speak of as a moment of danger to you. I am going — not from fear of that danger nor from a sentimental feeling for Shatov, whom I have no inclination to kiss, but solely because all this business from beginning to end is in direct contradiction to my programme. As for my betraying you and my being in the pay of the government, you can set your mind completely at rest. I shall not betray you.”
He turned and walked away.
“Damn it all, he'll meet them and warn Shatov!” cried Pyotr Stepanovitch, pulling out his revolver. They heard the click of the trigger.
“You may be confident,” said Shigalov, turning once more, “that if I meet Shatov on the way I may bow to him, but I shall not warn him.”
“But do you know, you may have to pay for this, Mr. Fourier?”
“I beg you to observe that I am not Fourier. If you mix me up with that mawkish theoretical twaddler you simply prove that you know nothing of my manuscript, though it has been in your hands. As for your vengeance, let me tell you that it's a mistake to cock your pistol: that's absolutely against your interests at the present moment. But if you threaten to shoot me to-morrow, or the day after, you'll gain nothing by it but unnecessary trouble. You may kill me, but sooner or later you'll come to my system all the same. Good-bye.”
At that instant a whistle was heard in the park, two hundred paces away from the direction of the pond. Liputin at once answered, whistling also as had been agreed the evening before. (As he had lost several teeth and distrusted his own powers, he had this morning bought for a farthing in the market a child's clay whistle for the purpose.) Erkel had warned Shatov on the way that they would whistle as a signal, so that the latter felt-no uneasiness.
“Don't be uneasy, I'll avoid them and they won't notice me at all,” Shigalov declared in an impressive whisper; and thereupon deliberately and without haste he walked home through the dark park.
Everything, to the smallest detail of this terrible affair, is now fully known. To begin with, Liputin met Erkel and Shatov at the entrance to the grotto. Shatov did not bow or offer him his hand, but at once pronounced hurriedly in a loud voice:
“Well, where have you put the spade, and haven't you another lantern? You needn't be afraid, there's absolutely no one here, and they wouldn't hear at Skvoreshniki now if we fired a cannon here. This is the place, here this very spot.”
And he stamped with his foot ten paces from the end of the grotto towards the wood. At that moment Tolkatchenko rushed out from behind a tree and sprang at him from behind, while Erkel seized him by the elbows. Liputin attacked him from the front. The three of them at once knocked him down and pinned him to the ground. At this point Pyotr Stepanovitch darted up with his revolver. It is said that Shatov had time to turn his head and was able to see and recognise him. Three lanterns lighted up the scene. Shatov suddenly uttered a short and desperate scream. But they did not let him go on screaming. Pyotr Stepanovitch firmly and accurately put his revolver to Shatov's forehead, pressed it to it, and pulled the trigger. The shot seems not to have been loud; nothing was heard at Skvoreshniki, anyway. Shigalov, who was scarcely three paces away, of course heard it — he heard the shout and the shot, but, as he testified afterwards, he did not turn nor even stop. Death was almost instantaneous. Pyotr Stepanovitch was the only one who preserved all his faculties, but I don't think he was quite cool. Squatting on his heels, he searched the murdered man's pockets hastily, though with steady hand. No money was found (his purse had been left under Marya Ignatyevna's pillow). Two or three scraps of paper of no importance were found: a note from his office, the title of some book, and an old bill from a restaurant abroad which had been preserved, goodness knows why, for two years in his pocket. Pyotr Stepanovitch transferred these scraps of paper to his own pocket, and suddenly noticing that they had all gathered round, were gazing at the corpse and doing nothing, he began rudely and angrily abusing them and urging them on. Tolkatchenko and Erkel recovered themselves, and running to the grotto brought instantly from it two stones which they had got ready there that morning. These stones, which weighed about twenty pounds each, were securely tied with cord. As they intended to throw the body in the nearest of the three ponds, they proceeded to tie the stones to the head and feet respectively. Pyotr Stepanovitch fastened the stones while Tolkatchenko and Erkel only held and passed them. Erkel was foremost, and while Pyotr Stepanovitch, grumbling and swearing, tied the dead man's feet together with the cord and fastened the stone to them — a rather lengthy operation — Tolkatchenko stood holding the other stone at arm's-length, his whole person bending forward, as it were, deferentially, to be in readiness to hand it without delay. It never once occurred to him to lay his burden on the ground in the interval. When at last both stones were tied on and Pyotr Stepanovitch got up from the ground to scrutinise the faces of his companions, something strange happened, utterly unexpected and surprising to almost every one.
As I have said already, all except perhaps Tolkatchenko and Erkel were standing still doing nothing. Though Virginsky had rushed up to Shatov with the others he had not seized him or helped to hold him. Lyamshin had joined the group after the shot had been fired. Afterwards, while Pyotr Stepanovitch was busy with the corpse — for perhaps ten minutes — none of them seemed to have been fully conscious. They grouped themselves around and seemed to have felt amazement rather than anxiety or alarm. Liputin stood foremost, close to the corpse. Virginsky stood behind him, peeping over his shoulder with a peculiar, as it were unconcerned, curiosity; he even stood on tiptoe to get a better view. Lyamshin hid behind Virginsky. He took an apprehensive peep from time to time and slipped behind him again at once. When the stones had been tied on and Pyotr Stepanovitch had risen to his feet, Virginsky began faintly shuddering all over, clasped his hands, and cried out bitterly at the top of his voice:
“It's not the right thing, it's not, it's not at all!” He would perhaps have added something more to his belated exclamation, but Lyamshin did not let him finish: he suddenly seized him from behind and squeezed him with all his might, uttering an unnatural shriek. There are moments of violent emotion, of terror, for instance, when a man will cry out in a voice not his own, unlike anything one could have anticipated from him, and this has sometimes a very terrible effect. Lyamshin gave vent to a scream more animal than human. Squeezing Virginsky from behind more and more tightly and convulsively, he went on shrieking without a pause, his mouth wide open and his eyes starting out of his head, keeping up a continual patter with his feet, as though he were beating a drum. Virginsky was so scared that he too screamed out like a madman, and with a ferocity, a vindictiveness that one could never have expected of Virginsky. He tried to pull himself away from Lyamshin, scratching and punching him as far as he could with his arms behind him. Erkel at last helped to pull Lyamshin away. But when, in his terror, Virginsky had skipped ten paces away from him, Lyamshin, catching sight of Pyotr Stepanovitch, began yelling again and flew at him. Stumbling over the corpse, he fell upon Pyotr Stepanovitch, pressing his head to the latter's chest and gripping him so tightly in his arms that Pyotr Stepanovitch, Tolkatchenko, and Liputin could all of them do nothing at the first moment. Pyotr Stepanovitch shouted, swore, beat him on the head with his fists. At last, wrenching himself away, he drew his revolver and put it in the open mouth of Lyamshin, who was still yelling and was by now tightly held by Tolkatchenko, Erkel, and Liputin. But Lyamshin went on shrieking in spite of the revolver. At last Erkel, crushing his silk handkerchief into a ball, deftly thrust it into his mouth and the shriek ceased. Meantime Tolkatchenko tied his hands with what was left of the rope.
“It's very strange,” said Pyotr Stepanovitch, scrutinising the madman with uneasy wonder. He was evidently struck. “I expected something very different from him,” he added thoughtfully.
They left Erkel in charge of him for a time. They had to make haste to get rid of the corpse: there had been so much noise that some one might have heard. Tolkatchenko and Pyotr Stepanovitch took up the lanterns and lifted the corpse by the head, while Liputin and Virginsky took the feet, and so they carried it away. With the two stones it was a heavy burden, and the distance was more than two hundred paces. Tolkatchenko was the strongest of them. He advised them to keep in step, but no one answered him and they all walked anyhow. Pyotr Stepanovitch walked on the right and, bending forward, carried the dead man's head on his shoulder while with the left hand he supported the stone. As Tolkatchenko walked more than half the way without thinking of helping him with the stone, Pyotr Stepanovitch at last shouted at him with an oath. It was a single, sudden shout. They all went on carrying the body in silence, and it was only when they reached the pond that Virginsky, stooping under his burden and seeming to be exhausted by the weight of it, cried out again in the same loud and wailing voice:
“It's not the right thing, no, no, it's not the right thing!”
The place to which they carried the dead man at the extreme end of the rather large pond, which was the farthest of the three from the house, was one of the most solitary and unfrequented spots in the park, especially at this late season of the year. At that end the pond was overgrown with weeds by the banks. They put down the lantern, swung the corpse and threw it into the pond. They heard a muffled and prolonged splash. Pyotr Stepanovitch raised the lantern and every one followed his example, peering curiously to see the body sink, but nothing could be seen: weighted with the two stones, the body sank at once. The big ripples spread over the surface of the water and quickly passed away. It was over.
Virginsky went off with Erkel, who before giving up Lyamshin to Tolkatchenko brought him to Pyotr Stepanovitch, reporting to the latter that Lyamshin had come to his senses, was penitent and begged forgiveness, and indeed had no recollection of what had happened to him. Pyotr Stepanovitch walked off alone, going round by the farther side of the pond, skirting the park. This was the longest way. To his surprise Liputin overtook him before he got half-way home.
“Pyotr Stepanovitch! Pyotr Stepanovitch! Lyamshin will give information!”
“No, he will come to his senses and realise that he will be the first to go to Siberia if he did. No one will betray us now. Even you won't.”
“What about you?”
“No fear! I'll get you all out of the way the minute you attempt to turn traitors, and you know that. But you won't turn traitors. Have you run a mile and a half to tell me that?”
“Pyotr Stepanovitch, Pyotr Stepanovitch, perhaps we shall never meet again!”
“What's put that into your head?”
“Only tell me one thing.”
“Well, what? Though I want you to take yourself off.”
“One question, but answer it truly: are we the only quintet in the world, or is it true that there are hundreds of others? It's a question of the utmost importance to me, Pyotr Stepanovitch.”
“I see that from the frantic state you are in. But do you know, Liputin, you are more dangerous than Lyamshin?”
“I know, I know; but the answer, your answer!”
“You are a stupid fellow! I should have thought it could make no difference to you now whether it's the only quintet or one of a thousand.”
“That means it's the only one! I was sure of it . . .” cried Liputin. “I always knew it was the only one, I knew it all along.” And without waiting for any reply he turned and quickly vanished into the darkness.
Pyotr Stepanovitch pondered a little.
“No, no one will turn traitor,” he concluded with decision, “but the group must remain a group and obey, or I'U . . . What a wretched set they are though!”
He first went home, and carefully, without haste, packed his trunk. At six o'clock in the morning there was a special train from the town. This early morning express only ran once a week, and was only a recent experiment. Though Pyotr Stepanovitch had told the members of the quintet that he was only going to be away for a short time in the neighbourhood, his intentions, as appeared later, were in reality very different. Having finished packing, he settled accounts with his landlady to whom he had previously given notice of his departure, and drove in a cab to Erkel's lodgings, near the station. And then just upon one o'clock at night he walked to Kirillov's, approaching as before by Fedka's secret way.
Pyotr Stepanovitch was in a painful state of mind. Apart from other extremely grave reasons for dissatisfaction (he was still unable to learn anything of Stavrogin), he had, it seems — for I cannot assert it for a fact — received in the course of that day, probably from Petersburg, secret information of a danger awaiting him in the immediate future. There are, of course, many legends in the town relating to this period; but if any facts were known, it was only to those immediately concerned. I can only surmise as my own conjecture that Pyotr Stepanovitch may well have had affairs going on in other neighbourhoods as well as in our town, so that he really may have received such a warning. I am convinced, indeed, in spite of Liputin's cynical and despairing doubts, that he really had two or three other quintets; for instance, in Petersburg and Moscow, and if not quintets at least colleagues and correspondents, and possibly was in very curious relations with them. Not more than three days after his departure an order for his immediate arrest arrived from Petersburg — whether in connection with what had happened among us, or elsewhere, I don't know. This order only served to increase the overwhelming, almost panic terror which suddenly came upon our local authorities and the society of the town, till then so persistently frivolous in its attitude, on the discovery of the mysterious and portentous murder of the student Shatov — the climax of the long series of senseless actions in our midst — as well as the extremely mysterious circumstances that accompanied that murder. But the order came too late: Pyotr Stepanovitch was already in Petersburg, living under another name, and, learning what was going on, he made haste to make his escape abroad. . . . But I am anticipating in a shocking way.
He went in to Kirillov, looking ill-humoured and quarrelsome. Apart from the real task before him, he felt, as it were, tempted to satisfy some personal grudge, to avenge himself on Kirillov for something. Kirillov seemed pleased to see him; he had evidently been expecting him a long time with painful impatience. His face was paler than usual; there was a fixed and heavy look in his black eyes.
“I thought you weren't coming,” he brought out drearily from his corner of the sofa, from which he had not, however, moved to greet him.
Pyotr Stepanovitch stood before him and, before uttering a word, looked intently at his face.
“Everything is in order, then, and we are not drawing back from our resolution. Bravo!” He smiled an offensively patronising smile. “But, after all,” he added with unpleasant jocosity, “if I am behind my time, it's not for you to complain: I made you a present of three hours.”
“I don't want extra hours as a present from you, and you can't make me a present . . . you fool!”
“What?” Pyotr Stepanovitch was startled, but instantly controlled himself. “What huffiness! So we are in a savage temper?” he rapped out, still with the same offensive superciliousness. “At such a moment composure is what you need. The best thing you can do is to consider yourself a Columbus and me a mouse, and not to take offence at anything I say. I gave you that advice yesterday.”
“I don't want to look upon you as a mouse.”
“What's that, a compliment? But the tea is cold — and that shows that everything is topsy-turvy. Bah! But I see something in the window, on a plate.” He went to the window. “Oh oh, boiled chicken and rice! . . . But why haven't you begun upon it yet? So we are in such a state of mind that even chicken . . . ”
“I've dined, and it's not your business. Hold your tongue!”
“Oh, of course; besides, it's no consequence — though for me at the moment it is of consequence. Only fancy, I scarcely had any dinner, and so if, as I suppose, that chicken is not wanted now . . . eh?”
“Eat it if you can.”
“Thank you, and then I'll have tea.”
He instantly settled himself at the other end of the sofa and fell upon the chicken with extraordinary greediness; at the same time he kept a constant watch on his victim. Kirillov looked at him fixedly with angry aversion, as though unable to tear himself away.
“I say, though,” Pyotr Stepanovitch fired off suddenly, while he still went on eating, “what about our business? We are not crying off, are we? How about that document?”
“I've decided in the night that it's nothing to me. I'll write it. About the manifestoes?”
“Yes, about the manifestoes too. But I'll dictate it. Of course, that's nothing to you. Can you possibly mind what's in the letter at such a moment?”
“That's not your business.”
“It's not mine, of course. It need only be a few lines, though: that you and Shatov distributed the manifestoes and with the help of Fedka, who hid in your lodgings. This last point about Fedka and your lodgings is very important — the most important of all, indeed. You see, I am talking to you quite openly.”
“Shatov? Why Shatov? I won't mention Shatov for anything.”
“What next! What is it to you? You can't hurt him now.”
“His wife has come back to him. She has waked up and has sent to ask me where he is.”
“She has sent to ask you where he is? H'm . . . that's unfortunate. She may send again; no one ought to know I am here.”
Pyotr Stepanovitch was uneasy.
“She won't know, she's gone to sleep again. There's a midwife with her, Arina Virginsky.”
“So that's how it was. . . . She won't overhear, I suppose? I say, you'd better shut the front door.”
“She won't overhear anything. And if Shatov comes I'll hide you in another room.”
“Shatov won't come; and you must write that you quarrelled with him because he turned traitor and informed the police . . . this evening . . . and caused his death.”
“He is dead!” cried Kirillov, jumping up from the sofa.
“He died at seven o'clock this evening, or rather, at seven o'clock yesterday evening, and now it's one o'clock.”
“You have killed him! . . . And I foresaw it yesterday!”
“No doubt you did! With this revolver here.” (He drew out his revolver as though to show it, but did not put it back again and still held it in his right hand as though in readiness.) “You are a strange man, though, Kirillov; you knew yourself that the stupid fellow was bound to end like this. What was there to foresee in that? I made that as plain as possible over and over again. Shatov was meaning to betray us; I was watching him, and it could not be left like that. And you too had instructions to watch him; you told me so yourself three weeks ago. . . . ”
“Hold your tongue! You've done this because he spat in your face in Geneva!”
“For that and for other things too — for many other things; not from spite, however. Why do you jump up? Why look like that? Oh oh, so that's it, is it?”
He jumped up and held out his revolver before him. Kirillov had suddenly snatched up from the window his revolver, which had been loaded and put ready since the morning. Pyotr Stepanovitch took,up his position and aimed his weapon at Kirillov. The latter laughed angrily.
“Confess, you scoundrel, that you brought your revolver because I might shoot you. . . . But I shan't shoot you . . . though . . . though . . . ”
And again he turned his revolver upon Pyotr Stepanovitch, as it were rehearsing, as though unable to deny himself the pleasure of imagining how he would shoot him. Pyotr Stepanovitch, holding his ground, waited for him, waited for him till the last minute without pulling the trigger, at the risk of being the first to get a bullet in his head: it might well be expected of “the maniac.” But at last “the maniac” dropped his hand, gasping and trembling and unable to speak.
“You've played your little game and that's enough.” Pyotr Stepanovitch, too, dropped his weapon. “I knew it was only a game; only you ran a risk, let me tell you: I might have fired.”
And he sat down on the sofa with a fair show of composure and poured himself out some tea, though his hand trembled a little. Kirillov laid his revolver on the table and began walking up and down.
“I won't write that I killed Shatov . . . and I won't write anything now. You won't have a document!”
“No, you won't.”
“What meanness and what stupidity!” Pyotr Stepanovitch turned green with resentment. “I foresaw it, though. You've not taken me by surprise, let me tell you. As you please, however. If I could make you do it by force, I would. You are a scoundrel, though.” Pyotr Stepanovitch was more and more carried away and unable to restrain himself. “You asked us for money out there and promised us no end of things. . . . I won't go away with nothing, however: I'll see you put the bullet through your brains first, anyway.”
“I want you to go away at once.” Kirillov stood firmly before him.
“No, that's impossible.” Pyotr Stepanovitch took up his revolver again. “Now in your spite and cowardice you may think fit to put it off and to turn traitor to-morrow, so as to get money again; they'll pay you for that, of course. Damn it all, fellows like you are capable of anything! Only don't trouble yourself; I've provided for all contingencies: I am not going till I've dashed your brains out with this revolver, as I did to that scoundrel Shatov, if you are afraid to do it yourself and put off your intention, damn you!”
“You are set on seeing my blood, too?”
“I am not acting from spite; let me tell you, it's nothing to me. I am doing it to be at ease about the cause. One can't rely on men; you see that for yourself. I don't understand what fancy possesses you to put yourself to death. It wasn't my idea; you thought of it yourself before I appeared, and talked of your intention to the committee abroad before you said anything to me. And you know, no one has forced it out of you; no one of them knew you, but you came to confide in them yourself, from sentimentalism. And what's to be done if a plan of action here, which can't be altered now, was founded upon that with your consent and upon your suggestion? . . . your suggestion, mind that! You have put yourself in a position in which you know too much. If you are an ass and go off to-morrow to inform the police, that would be rather a disadvantage to us; what do you think about it? Yes, you've bound yourself; you've given your word, you've taken money. That you can't deny . . . .”
Pyotr Stepanovitch was much excited, but for some time past Kirillov had not been listening. He paced up and down the room, lost in thought again.
“I am sorry for Shatov,” he said, stopping before Pyotr Stepanovitch again.
“Why so? I am sorry, if that's all, and do you suppose . . .”
“Hold your tongue, you scoundrel,” roared Kirillov, making an alarming and unmistakable movement; “I'll kill you.”
“There, there, there! I told a lie, I admit it; I am not sorry at all. Come, that's enough, that's enough.” Pyotr Stepanovitch started up apprehensively, putting out his hand.
Kirillov subsided and began walking up and down again.
“I won't put it off; I want to kill myself now: all are scoundrels.”
“Well, that's an idea; of course all are scoundrels; and since life is a beastly thing for a decent man . . . ”
“Fool, I am just such a scoundrel as you, as all, not a decent man. There's never been a decent man anywhere.”
“He's guessed the truth at last! Can you, Kirillov, with your sense, have failed to see till now that all men are alike, that there are none better or worse, only some are stupider, than others, and that if all are scoundrels (which is nonsense, though) there oughtn't to be any people that are not?”
“Ah! Why, you are. really in earnest?” Kirillov looked at him with some wonder. “You speak with heat and simply . . . . Can it be that even fellows like you have convictions?”
“Kirillov, I've never been able to understand why you mean to kill yourself. I only know it's from conviction . . . strong conviction. But if you feel a yearning to express yourself, so to say, I am at your service. . . . Only you must think of the time.”
“What time is it?”
“Oh oh, just two.” Pyotr Stepanovitch looked at his watch and lighted a cigarette.
“It seems we can come to terms after all,” he reflected.
“I've nothing to say to you,” muttered Kirillov.
“I remember that something about God comes into it . . . you explained it to me once — twice, in fact. If you stopped yourself, you become God; that's it, isn't it?”
“Yes, I become God.”
Pyotr Stepanovitch did not even smile; he waited. Kirillov looked at him subtly.
“You are a political impostor and intriguer. You want to lead me on into philosophy and enthusiasm and to bring about a reconciliation so as to disperse my anger, and then, when I am reconciled with you, beg from me a note to say I killed Shatov.” ''
Pyotr Stepanovitch answered with almost natural frankness.
“Well, supposing I am such a scoundrel. But at the last moments does that matter to you, Kirillov? What are we quarrelling about? Tell me, please. You are one sort of man and I am another — what of it? And what's more, we are both of us . . .”
“Yes, scoundrels if you like. But you know that that's only words.”
“All my life I wanted it not to be only words. I lived because I did not want it to be. Even now every day I want it to be not words.”
“Well, every one seeks to be where he is best off. The fish . . . that is, every one seeks his own comfort, that's all. That's been a commonplace for ages and ages.”
“Comfort, do you say?”
“Oh, it's not worth while quarrelling over words.”
“No, you were right in what you said; let it be comfort. God is necessary and so must exist.”
“Well, that's all right, then.”
“But I know He doesn't and can't.”
“That's more likely.”
“Surely you must understand that a man with two such ideas can't go on living?”
“Must shoot himself, you mean?”
“Surely you must understand that one might shoot oneself for that alone? You don't understand that there may be a man, one man out of your thousands of millions, one man who won't bear it and does not want to.”
“All I understand is that you seem to be hesitating. . . . That's very bad.”
“Stavrogin, too, is consumed by an idea,” Kirillov said gloomily, pacing up and down the room. He had not noticed the previous remark.
“What?” Pyotr Stepanovitch pricked up his ears. “What idea? Did he tell you something himself?”
“No, I guessed it myself: if Stavrogin has faith, he does not believe that he has faith. If he hasn't faith, he does not believe that he hasn't.”
“Well, Stavrogin has got something else worse than that in his head,” Pyotr Stepanovitch muttered peevishly, uneasily watching the turn the conversation had taken and the pallor of Kirillov.
“Damn it all, he won't shoot himself!” he was thinking. “I always suspected it; it's a maggot in the brain and nothing more; what a rotten lot of people!”
“You are the last to be with me; I shouldn't like to part on bad terms with you,” Kirillov vouchsafed suddenly.
Pyotr Stepanovitch did not answer at once. “Damn it all, what is it now?” he thought again.
“I assure you, Kirillov, I have nothing against you personally as a man, and always . . . ”
“You are a scoundrel and a false intellect. But I am just the same as you are, and I will shoot myself while you will remain living.”
“You mean to say, I am so abject that I want to go on living.”
He could not make up his mind whether it was judicious to keep up such a conversation at such a moment or not, and resolved “to be guided by circumstances.” But the tone of superiority and of contempt for him, which Kirillov had never disguised, had always irritated him, and now for some reason it irritated him more than ever — possibly because Kirillov, who was to die within an hour or so (Pyotr Stepanovitch still reckoned upon this), seemed to him, as it were, already only half a man, some creature whom he could not allow to be haughty.
“You seem to be boasting to me of your shooting yourself.”
“I've always been surprised at every one's going on living,” said Kirillov, not hearing his remark.
“H'm! Admitting that's an idea, but . . .”
“You ape, you assent to get the better of me. Hold your tongue; you won't understand anything. If there is no God, then I am God.”
“There, I could never understand that point of yours: why are you God?”
“If God exists, all is His will and from His will I cannot escape. If not, it's all my will and I am bound to show self-will.”
“Self-will? But why are you bound?”
“Because all will has become mine. Can it be that no one in the whole planet, after making an end of God and believing in his own will, will dare to express his self-will on the most vital point? It's like a beggar inheriting a fortune and being afraid of it and not daring to approach the bag of gold, thinking himself too weak to own it. I want to manifest my self-will. I may be the only one, but I'll do it.”
“Do it by all means.”
“I am bound to shoot myself because the highest point of my self-will is to kill myself with my own hands.”
“But you won't be the only one to kill yourself; there are lots of suicides.”
“With good cause. But to do it without any cause at all, simply for self-will, I am the only one.”
“He won't shoot himself,” flashed across Pyotr Stepanovitch's ruined again.
“Do you know,” he observed irritably, “if I were in your place I should kill some one else to show my self-will, not myself. You might be of use. I'll tell you whom, if you are not afraid. Then you needn't shoot yourself to-day, perhaps. We may come to terms.”
“To kill some one would be the lowest point of self-will, and you show your whole soul in that. I am not you: I want the highest point and I'll kill myself.”
“He's come to it of himself,” Pyotr Stepanovitch muttered malignantly.
“I am bound to show my unbelief,” said Kirillov, walking about the room. “I have no higher idea than disbelief in God. I have all the history of mankind on my side. Man has done nothing but invent God so as to go on living, and not kill himself; that's the whole of universal history up till now. I am the first one in the whole history of mankind who would not invent God. Let them know it once for all.”
“He won't shoot himself,” Pyotr Stepanovitch thought anxiously.
“Let whom know it?” he said, egging him on. “It's only you and me here; you mean Liputin?”
“Let every one know; all will know. There is nothing secret that will not be made known. He said so.”
And he pointed with feverish enthusiasm to the image of the Saviour, before which a lamp was burning. Pyotr Stepanovitch lost his temper completely.
“So you still believe in Him, and you've lighted the lamp; 'to be on the safe side,' I suppose?”
The other did not speak.
“Do you know, to my thinking, you believe perhaps more thoroughly than any priest.”
“Believe in whom? In Him? Listen.” Kirillov stood still, gazing before him with fixed and ecstatic look. “Listen to a great idea: there was a day on earth, and in the midst of the earth there stood three crosses. One on the Cross had such faith that he said to another, 'To-day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.' The day ended; both died and passed away and found neither Paradise nor resurrection. His words did not come true. Listen: that Man was the loftiest of all on earth, He was that which gave meaning to life. The whole planet, with everything on it, is mere madness without that Man. There has never been any like Him before or since, never, up to a miracle. For that is the miracle, that there never was or never will be another like Him. And if that is so, if the laws of nature did not spare even Him, have not spared even their miracle and made even Him live in a lie and die for a lie, then all the planet is a lie and rests on a lie and on mockery. So then, the very laws of the planet are a lie and the vaudeville of devils. What is there to live for? Answer, if you are a man.”
“That's a different matter. It seems to me you've mixed up two different causes, and that's a very unsafe thing to do. But excuse me, if you are God I If the lie were ended and if you realised that all the falsity comes from the belief in that former God?”
“So at last you understand!” cried Kirillov rapturously. “So it can be understood if even a fellow like you understands. Do you understand now that the salvation for all consists in proving this idea to every one I Who will prove it? I! I can't understand how an atheist could know that there is no God and not kill himself on the spot. To recognise that there is no God and not to recognise at the same instant that one is God oneself is an absurdity, else one would certainly kill oneself. If you recognise it you are sovereign, and then you won't kill yourself but will live in the greatest glory. But one, the first, must kill himself, for else who will begin and prove it? So I must certainly kill myself, to begin and prove it. Now I am only a god against my will and I am unhappy, because I am bound to assert my will. All are unhappy because all are afraid to express their will. Man has hitherto been so unhappy and so poor because he has been afraid to assert his will in the highest point and has shown his self-will only in little things, like a schoolboy. I am awfully unhappy, for I'm awfully afraid. Terror is the curse of man. . . . But I will assert my will, I am bound to believe that I don't believe. I will begin and will make an end of it and open the door, and will save. That's the only thing that will save mankind and will re-create the next generation physically; for with his present physical nature man can't get on without his former God, I believe. For three years I've been seeking for the attribute of my godhead and I've found it; the attribute of my godhead is self-will! That's all I can do to prove in the highest point my independence and my new terrible freedom. For it is very terrible. I am killing myself to prove my independence and my new terrible freedom.”
His face was unnaturally pale, and there was a terribly heavy look in his eyes. He was like a man in delirium. Pyotr Stepanoviteh thought he would drop on to the floor.
“Give me the pen!” Kirillov cried suddenly, quite unexpectedly, in a positive frenzy. “Dictate; I'll sign anything. I'll sign that I killed Shatov even. Dictate while it amuses me. I am not afraid of what the haughty slaves will think! You will see for yourself that all that is secret shall be made manifest! And you will be crushed. . . . I believe, I believe!”
Pyotr Stepanoviteh jumped up from his seat and instantly handed him an inkstand and paper, and began dictating, seizing the moment, quivering with anxiety.
“I, Alexey Kirillov, declare . . . ”
“Stay; I won't! To whom am I declaring it?”
Kirillov was shaking as though he were in a fever. This declaration and the sudden strange idea of it seemed to absorb him entirely, as though it were a means of escape by which his tortured spirit strove for a moment's relief.
“To whom am I declaring it? I want to know to whom?”
“To no one, every one, the first person who reads it. Why define it? The whole world!”
“The whole world! Bravo! And I won't have any repentance. I don't want penitence and I don't want it for the police!”
“No, of course, there's rid need of it, damn the police! Write, if you are in earnest!” Pyotr Stepanoviteh cried hysterically.
“Stay! I want to put at the top a face with the tongue out.”
“Ech, what nonsense,” cried Pyotr Stepanoviteh crossly, “you can express all that without the drawing, by — the tone.”
“By the tone? That's true. Yes, by the tone, by the tone of it. Dictate, the tone.”
“I, Alexey Kirillov,” Pyotr Stepanoviteh dictated firmly and peremptorily, bending over Kirillov's shoulder and following every letter which the latter formed with a hand trembling with excitement, “I, Kirillov, declare that to-day, the — th October, at about eight o'clock in the evening, I killed the student Shatov in the park for turning traitor and giving information of the manifestoes and of Fedka, who has been lodging with us for ten days in Filipov's house. I am shooting myself to-day with my revolver, not because I repent and am afraid of you, but because when I was abroad I made up my mind to put an end to my life.”
“Is that all?” cried Kirillov with surprise and indignation. “Not another word,” cried Pyotr Stepanovitch, waving his hand, attempting to snatch the document from him.
“Stay.” Kirillov put his hand firmly on the paper. “Stay, it's nonsense! I want to say with whom I killed him. Why Fedka? And what about the fire? I want it all and I want to be abusive in tone, too, in tone!”
“Enough, Kirillov, I assure you it's enough,” cried Pyotr Stepanovitch almost imploringly, trembling lest he should tear up the paper; “that they may believe you, you must say it as obscurely as possible, just like that, simply in hints. You must only give them a peep of the truth, just enough to tantalise them. They'll tell a story better than ours, and of course they'll believe themselves more than they would us; and you know, it's better than anything — better than anything! Let me have it, it's splendid as it is; give it to me, give it to me!”
And he kept trying to snatch the paper. Kirillov listened open-eyed and appeared to be trying to reflect, but he seemed beyond understanding now.
“Damn it all,” Pyotr Stepanovitch cried all at once, ill-humouredly, “he hasn't signed it! Why are you staring like that? Sign!”
“I want to abuse them,” muttered Kirillov. He took the pen, however, and signed. “I want to abuse them.”
“Write 'Vive la republique,' and that will be enough.”
“Bravo!” Kirillov almost bellowed with delight. 'Vive la republique democratique sociale et universelle ou la mart!' No, no, that's not it. 'Liberte, egalite, fraternite ou la mort.' There, that's better, that's better.” He wrote it gleefully under his signature.
“Enough, enough,” repeated Pyotr Stepanovitch.
“Stay, a little more. I'll sign it again in French, you know. 'De Kirilloff, gentilhomme russe et citoyen du monde.' Ha ha!” He went off in a peal of laughter. “No, no, no; stay. I've found something better than all. Eureka! 'Gentilhomme, seminariste russe et citoyen du monde civilise!' That's better than any . . . .” He jumped up from the sofa and suddenly, with a rapid gesture, snatched up the revolver from the window, ran with it into the next room, and closed the door behind him.
Pyotr Stepanovitch stood for a moment, pondering and gazing at the door.
“If he does it at once, perhaps he'll do it, but if he begins thinking, nothing will come of it.”
Meanwhile he took up the paper, sat down, and looked at it again. The wording of the document pleased him again.
“What's needed for the moment? What's wanted is to throw them all off the scent and keep them busy for a time. The park? There's no park in the town and they'll guess its Skvoreshniki of themselves. But while they are arriving at that, time will be passing; then the search will take time too; then when they find the body it will prove that the story is true, and it will follow that's it all true, that it's true about Fedka too. And Fedka explains the fire, the Lebyadkins; so that it was all being hatched here, at Filipov's, while they overlooked it and saw nothing — that will quite turn their heads! They will never think of the quintet; Shatov and Kirillov and Fedka and Lebyadkin, and why they killed each other — that will be another question for them. Oh, damn it all, I don't hear the shot!”
Though he had been reading and admiring the wording of it, he had been listening anxiously all the time, and he suddenly flew into a rage. He looked anxiously at his watch; it was getting late and it was fully ten minutes since Kirillov had gone out. . . . Snatching up the candle, he went to the door of the room where Kirillov had shut himself up. He was just at the door when the thought struck him that the candle had burnt out, that it would not last another twenty minutes, and that there was no other in the room. He took hold of the handle and listened warily; he did not hear the slightest sound. He suddenly opened the door and lifted up the candle: something uttered a roar and rushed at him. He slammed the door with all his might and pressed his weight against it; but all sounds died away and again there was deathlike stillness.
He stood for a long while irresolute, with the candle in his hand. He had been able to see very little in the second he held the door open, but he had caught a glimpse of the face of Kirillov standing at the other end of the room by the window, and the savage fury with which the latter had rushed upon him. Pyotr Stepanovitch started, rapidly set the candle on the table, made ready his revolver, and retreated on tiptoe to the farthest corner of the room, so that if Kirillov opened the door and rushed up to the table with the revolver he would still have time to be the first to aim and fire.
Pyotr Stepanovitch had by now lost all faith in the suicide. “He was standing in the middle of the room, thinking,” flashed like a whirlwind through Pyotr Stepanovitch's mind, “and the room was dark and horrible too. . . . He roared and rushed at me. There are two possibilities: either I interrupted him at the very second when he was pulling the trigger or . . . or he was standing planning how to kill me. Yes, that's it, he was planning it. . . . He knows I won't go away without killing him if he funks it himself — so that he would have to kill me first to prevent my killing him. . . . And again, again there is silence. I am really frightened: he may open the door all of a sudden. . . . The nuisance of it is that he believes in God like any priest. . . . He won't shoot himself for anything! There are lots of these people nowadays 'who've come to it of themselves.' A rotten lot! Oh, damn it, the candle, the candle! It'll go out within a quarter of an hour for certain. . . . I must put a stop to it; come what may, I must put a stop to it. . . . Now I can kill him. . . . With that document here no one would think of my killing him. I can put him in such an attitude oh the floor with an unloaded revolver in his hand that they'd be certain he'd done it himself. . . . Ach, damn it! how is one to kill him? If I open the door he'll rush out again and shoot me first. Damn it all, he'll be sure to miss!”
He was in agonies, trembling at the necessity of action and his own indecision. At last he took up the candle and again approached the door with the revolver held up in readiness; he put his left hand, in which he held the candle, on the doorhandle. But he managed awkwardly: the handle clanked, there was a rattle and a creak. “He will fire straightway,” flashed through Pyotr Stepanovitch's mind. With his foot he flung the door open violently, raised the candle, and held out the revolver; but no shot nor cry came from within. . . . There was no one in the room.
He started. The room led nowhere. There was no exit, no means of escape from it. He lifted the candle higher and looked about him more attentively: there was certainly no one. He called Kirillov's name in a low voice, then again louder; no one answered.
“Can he have got out by the window?” The casement in one window was, in fact, open. “Absurd! He couldn't have got away through, the casement.” Pyotr Stepanovitch crossed the room and went up to the window. “He couldn't possibly.” All at once he turned round quickly and was aghast at something extraordinary.
Against the wall facing the windows on the right of the door stood a cupboard. On the right side of this cupboard, in the corner formed by the cupboard and the wall, stood Kirillov, and he was standing in a very strange way; motionless, perfectly erect, with his arms held stiffly at his sides, his head raised and pressed tightly back against the wall in the very corner, he seemed to be trying to conceal and efface himself. Everything seemed to show that he was hiding, yet somehow it was not easy to believe it. Pyotr Stepanovitch was standing a little sideways to the corner, and could only see the projecting parts of the figure. He could not bring himself to move to the left to get a full view of Kirillov and solve the mystery. His heart began beating violently, and he felt a sudden rush of blind fury: he started from where he stood, and, shouting and stamping with his feet, he rushed to the horrible place.
But when he reached Kirillov he stopped short again, still more overcome, horror-stricken. What struck him most was that, in spite of his shout and his furious rush, the figure did riot stir, did not move in a single limb — as though it were of stone or of wax. The pallor of the face was unnatural, the black eyes were quite unmoving and were staring away at a point in the distance. Pyotr Stepanovitch lowered the candle and raised it again, lighting up the figure from all points of view and scrutinising it. He suddenly noticed that, although Kirillov was looking straight before him, he could see him and was perhaps watching him out of the corner of his eye. Then the idea occurred to him to hold the candle right up to the wretch's face, to scorch him and see what he would do. He suddenly fancied that Kirillov's chin twitched and that something like a mocking smile passed over his lips — as though he had guessed Pyotr Stepanovitch's thought. He shuddered arid, beside himself, clutched violently at Kirillov's shoulder.
Then something happened so hideous and so soon over that Pyotr Stepanovitch could never afterwards recover a coherent impression of it. He had hardly touched Kirillov when the latter bent down quickly and with his head knocked the candle out of Pyotr Stepanovitch's hand; the candlestick fell with a clang on the ground and the candle went out. At the same moment he was conscious of a fearful pain in the little finger of his left hand. He cried out, and all that he could remember was that, beside himself, he hit out with all his might and struck three blows with the revolver on the head of Kirillov, who had bent down to him and had bitten his finger. At last he tore away his finger and rushed headlong to get out of the house, feeling his way in the dark. He was pursued by terrible shouts from the room.
“Directly, directly, directly, directly.” Ten times. But he still ran on, and was running into the porch when he suddenly heard a loud shot. Then he stopped short in the dark porch and stood deliberating for five minutes; at last he made his way back into the house. But he had to get the candle. He had only to feel on the floor on the right of the cupboard for the candlestick; but how was he to light the candle? There suddenly came into his mind a vague recollection: he recalled that when he had run into the kitchen the day before to attack Fedka he had noticed in passing a large red box of matches in a corner on a shelf. Feeling with his hands, he made his way to the door on the left leading to the kitchen, found it, crossed the passage, and went down the steps. On the shelf, on the very spot where he had just recalled seeing it, he felt in the dark a full unopened box of matches. He hurriedly went up the steps again without striking a light, and it was only when he was near the cupboard, at the spot where he had struck Kirillov with the revolver and been bitten by him, that he remembered his bitten finger, and at the same instant was conscious that it was unbearably painful. Clenching his teeth, he managed somehow to light the candle-end, set it in the candlestick again, and looked about him: near the open casement, with his feet towards the right-hand corner, lay the dead body of Kirillov. The shot had been fired at the right temple and the bullet had come out at the top on the left, shattering the skull. There were splashes of blood and brains. The revolver was still in the suicide's hand on the floor. Death must have been instantaneous. After a careful look round, Pyotr Stepanovitch got up and went out on tiptoe, closed the door, left the candle on the table in the outer room, thought a moment, and resolved not to put it out, reflecting that it could not possibly set fire to anything. Looking once more at the document left on the table, he smiled mechanically and then went out of the house, still for some reason walking on tiptoe. He crept through Fedka's hole again and carefully replaced the posts after him.
Precisely at ten minutes to six Pyotr Stepanovitch and Erkel were walking up and down the platform at the railway-station beside a rather long train. Pyotr Stepanovitch was setting oft and Erkel was saying good-bye to him. The luggage was in, and his bag was in the seat he had taken in a second-class carriage. The first bell had rung already; they were waiting for the second. Pyotr Stepanovitch looked about him, openly watching the passengers as they got into the train. But he did not meet anyone he knew well; only twice he nodded to acquaintances — a merchant whom he knew slightly, and then a young village priest who was going to his parish two stations away. Erkel evidently wanted to speak of something of importance in the last moments, though possibly he did not himself know exactly of what, but he could not bring himself to begin! He kept fancying that Pyotr Stepanovitch seemed anxious to get rid of him and was impatient for the last bell.
“You look at every one so openly,” he observed with some timidity, as though he would have warned him.
“Why not? It would not do for me to conceal myself at present. It's too soon. Don't be uneasy. All I am afraid of is that the devil might send Liputin this way; he might scent me out and race off here.”
“Pyotr Stepanovitch, they are not to be trusted,” Erkel brought out resolutely. “Liputin?”
“None of them, Pyotr Stepanovitch.”
“Nonsense! they are all bound by what happened yesterday. There isn't one who would turn traitor. People won't go to certain destruction unless they've lost their reason.”
“Pyotr Stepanovitch, but they will lose their reason.” Evidently that idea had already occurred to Pyotr Stepanovitch too, and so Erkel's observation irritated him the more.
“You are not in a funk too, are you, Erkel? I rely on you more than on any of them. I've seen now what each of them is worth. Tell them to-day all I've told you. I leave them in your charge. Go round to each of them this morning. Read them my written instructions to-morrow, or the day after, when you are all together and they are capable of listening again . . . and believe me, they will be by to-morrow, for they'll be in an awful funk, and that will make them as soft as wax . . . . The great thing is that you shouldn't be downhearted.”
“Ach, Pyotr Stepanovitch, it would be better if you weren't going away.”
“But I am only going for a few days; I shall be back in no time.”
“Pyotr Stepanovitch,” Erkel brought out warily but resolutely, “what if you were going to Petersburg? Of course, I understand that you are only doing what's necessary for the cause.”
“I expected as much from you, Erkel. If you have guessed that I am going to Petersburg you can realise that I couldn't tell them yesterday, at that moment, that I was going so far for fear of frightening them. You saw for yourself what a state they were in. But you understand that I am going for the cause, for work of the first importance, for the common cause, and not to save my skin, as Liputin imagines.”
“Pyotr Stepanovitch, what if you were going abroad? I should understand . . . I should understand that you must be careful of yourself because you are everything and we are nothing. I shall understand, Pyotr Stepanovitch.” The poor boy's voice actually quivered.
“Thank you, Erkel. . . . Aie, you've touched my bad finger.” (Erkel had pressed his hand awkwardly; the bad finger was discreetly bound up in black silk.) “But I tell you positively again that I am going to Petersburg only to sniff round, and perhaps shall only be there for twenty-four hours and then back here again at once. When I come back I shall stay at Gaganov's country place for the sake of appearances. If there is any notion of danger, I should be the first to take the lead and share it. If I stay longer, in Petersburg I'll let you know at once . . . in the way we've arranged, and you'll tell them.” The second bell rang.
“Ah, then there's only five, minutes before the train starts. I don't want the group here to break up, you know. I am not afraid; don't be anxious about me. I have plenty of such centres, and it's not much consequence; but there's no harm in haying as many centres as possible. But I am quite at ease about you, though I am leaving you almost alone with those idiots. Don't be uneasy; they won't turn traitor, they won't have the pluck. . . . Ha ha, you going to-day too?” he cried suddenly in a quite different, cheerful voice to a very young man, who came up gaily to greet him. “I didn't know you were going by the express too. Where are you off to . . . your mother's?”
The mother of the young man was a very wealthy landowner in a neighbouring province, and the young man was a distant relation of Yulia Mihailovna's and had been staying about a fortnight in our town.
“No, I am going farther, to R——. I've eight hours to live through in the train. Off to Petersburg?” laughed the young man.
“What makes you suppose I must be going to Petersburg?” said Pyotr Stepanovitch, laughing even more openly.
The young man shook his gloved finger at him.
“Well, you've guessed right,” Pyotr Stepanovitch whispered to him mysteriously. “I am going with letters from Yulia Mihailovna and have to call on three or four personages, as you can imagine — bother them all, to speak candidly. It's a beastly job!”
“But why is she in such a panic? Tell me,” the young man whispered too. “She wouldn't see even me yesterday. I don't think she has anything to fear for her husband, quite the contrary; he fell down so creditably at the fire — ready to sacrifice his life, so to speak.”
“Well, there it is,” laughed Pyotr Stepanovitch. “You see, she is afraid that people may have written from here already . . . that is, some gentlemen. . . . The fact is, Stavrogin is at the bottom of it, or rather Prince K. . . . Ech, it's a long story; I'll tell you something about it on the journey if you like — as far as my chivalrous feelings will allow me, at least. . . . This is my relation, Lieutenant Erkel, who lives down here.”
The young man, who had been stealthily glancing at Erkel, touched his hat; Erkel made a bow.
“But I say, Verhovensky, eight hours in the train is an awful ordeal. Berestov, the colonel, an awfully funny fellow, is travelling with me in the first class. He is a neighbour of ours in the country, and his wife is a Garin (nee de Garine), and you know he is a very decent fellow. He's got ideas too. He's only been here a couple of days. He's passionately fond of whist; couldn't we get up a game, eh? I've already fixed on a fourth —
Pripuhlov, our merchant from T—— with a beard, a millionaire —.I mean it, a real millionaire; you can take my word for it. . . . I'll introduce you; he is a very interesting money-bag. We shall have a laugh.”
“I shall be delighted, and I am awfully fond of cards in the train, but I am going second class.”
“Nonsense, that's no matter. Get in with us. I'll tell them directly to move you to the first class. The chief guard would do anything I tell him. What have you got? . . . a bag? a rug?”
“First-rate. Come along!”
Pyotr Stepanovitch took his bag, his rug, and his book, and at once and with alacrity transferred himself to the first class. Erkel helped him. The third bell rang.
“Well, Erkel.” Hurriedly, and with a preoccupied air, Pyotr Stepanovitch held out his hand from the window for the last time. “You see, I am sitting down to cards with them.”
“Why explain, Pyotr Stepanovitch? I understand, I understand it all!”
“Well, au revoir,” Pyotr Stepanovitch turned away suddenly on his name being called by the young man, who wanted to introduce him to his partners. And Erkel saw nothing more of Pyotr Stepanovitch.
He returned home very sad. Not that he was alarmed at Pyotr Stepanovitch's leaving them so suddenly, but . . . he had turned away from him so quickly when that young swell had called to him and . . . he might have said something different to him, not “Au revoir,” or . . . or at least have pressed his hand more warmly. That last was bitterest of all. Something else was beginning to gnaw in his poor little heart, something which he could not understand himself yet, something connected with the evening before.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07